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Orange postpones Wildfire closure

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Orange has been forced to delay the scrapping of its Wildfire voice recognition system by four weeks after being rocked by criticism from unhappy punters.

The mobilephoneco had blamed "declining numbers" for its decision to ditch Wildfire at the end of May. But after much public criticism of its decision - especially from blind and visually impaired users who rely on Wildfire to make their calls - Orange agreed to postpone the closure of the voice activated digital personal assistant for a month.

Orange is also offering its visually impaired punters free TALKS voice recognition software as a replacement for its Wildfire service.

A spokesman for the company told The Register: "The closure of Wildfire has been delayed by four weeks and is now due for closure on 1 July. This is to ensure that our customer with sensory disabilities have time to transfer to the TALKS voice recognition software package we are offering as a replacement service."

Despite this offer, there are still plenty of people unhappy at the way Orange has handled its decision to close of Wildfire. A campaign web site set up to lobby Orange has received a steady stream of comments from customers hacked off at the company's heavy-handed approach. It's even become a sounding board for one "Orange employee" lamenting at the way the company has "gone down hill drastically over the last three years".

While campaigners continue to lobby Orange, there is at least one punter who remains optimistic.

After complaining to Orange he received the following email: "Orange can confirm that it is no longer offering the majority of its customer base the voice-recognition answerphone service Wildfire. Existing Wildfire customers will still be able to use the service to the same high standard and we will continue to offer Wildfire to visually impaired customers who request the service. However, the service will no longer be available to the majority of our customers.

"Orange is currently developing a number of similar voice-recognition services which are due to be released in the next 12 months. These will be delivered as a portfolio of 'needs-based' services allowing customers to mix and match the level of voice-recognition integration they require. Therefore, it would not make sense to continue offering Wildfire to customers with the new services being released shortly." ®

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