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Smoked By Windows Phone, Or Smoke And Mirrors?

Microsoft's buzzworthy Smoked By Windows Phone campaign took an ugly turn over the weekend after a contestant accused Microsoft of cheating.
Microsoft cheated a Windows Phone fan out of a win over the weekend, and the fan took his case to the Internet. The result? Not the kind of publicity Microsoft wants.

Microsoft kicked off a campaign earlier this year called Smoked By Windows Phone. The idea is to advertise that Windows Phones can perform tasks very quickly. A Microsoft employee challenged attendees at CES and later Mobile World Congress to see who could perform a task (such as addressing a new email) faster.

It was fun to watch, and Microsoft was offering cash prizes to those who could beat it. At Mobile World Congress, I watched several rounds of the competition. There was a scoreboard, which showed Microsoft's Windows Phone was winning the majority--but not all--of the challenges.

The Smoked By Windows Phone campaign later moved off the tradeshow floor to Microsoft's retail stores. It is there that Sahas Katta challenged his local Microsoft store to see who could win.

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According to Katta, the challenge was to see which platform could pull up two different cities' weather faster. Katta was using a Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0, and he had disabled the lock screen. All he had to do was push the power button to turn on his home screen, which had two different weather applications running with two different cities. The Microsoft store employee had to take two steps: Press the button to wake the screen, and then slide-to-unlock to get to the home screen. Two steps takes longer than one, plain and simple (but the Microsoft store employee had two separate Live Tiles already prepared on the home screen).

For whatever reason, the Microsoft store employees refused to recognize Katta's win, eventually claiming that he was supposed to show the results of two different cities in two different states.

Katta took to Twitter to complain and Microsoft's Windows Phone champion, Ben Rudolph, reached out and offered Katta a rematch, and later, a free laptop and Windows Phone for his tribulations.

While it is good to see Microsoft quickly made things right, there's a flaw in the entire campaign that bugs me.

Obviously, Microsoft wants to show its platform in the best possible light. You can't fault them for that. The people accepting the Windows Phone challenges are clearly highly trained at specific tasks and have done them repeatedly. For the contest to be 100% legit, the challenger should be the one suggesting the challenge, and both phones should have the same start position (i.e., either both have lock screens enabled or neither of them do).

So what does Microsoft do from here? While the idea behind the Smoked By Windows Phone was a good one, snafus such as this weekend's can cast a cloud over the whole thing. If it is to continue, the rules need to be much clearer and less weighted in Microsoft's favor.

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