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Microsoft 'Smoked By Windows Phone': The Real Story

Microsoft says its Smoked By Windows Phone challenge has been taken more than 50,000 times and has a win rate of 98%. Too bad Microsoft is ignoring the bottom line.
If we believe Microsoft's latest pitch, its "Smoked By Windows Phone" marketing stunt (in which it bets people $100 that Windows Phone is faster than their non-Windows phones) has been a huge success. Microsoft delivered a ton of specs regarding the smartphone ploy Tuesday, but the numbers don't tell the real story.

Microsoft's win rate is 98%. In the 50,675 challenges that have been taken, Microsoft has lost 638 times to "other phones." (Microsoft doesn't say which phones it lost to, which is a shame.) Those 50,000 challenges have taken place at CES, Mobile World Congress, and Microsoft stores in the United States, as well as various locations in 36 other countries.

Of course, what Microsoft considers a "win" isn't necessarily what consumers say are wins. Microsoft ran into a flap last month when some consumers accused Microsoft's employees of rigging the challenges in Microsoft's favor--in addition to not honoring what the participants felt were clear wins on their part.

Microsoft notes that Smoked By Windows Phone is a huge YouTube hit. The campaign has generated more than 8 million views on the video-sharing site. Nearly all--95%--viewers of Smoked By Windows Phone video rated them positively.

[ Learn more about Windows Phone. See Woz Digs Windows Phone, But LG Doesn't. ]

Microsoft estimates that more than 100 million people have seen, participated in, or read about Smoked by Windows Phone worldwide. That includes all potential media, such as social networks, videos, article page views, and so on.

Great. Congrats to Microsoft for a successful marketing campaign. Too bad Microsoft is leaving out the only number that matters: the total number of Windows Phones sold to date.

We know that Windows Phone holds an abysmal 1.7% of the U.S. smartphone market, and perhaps a bit more than that in other markets. Microsoft has never shared the number of phones sold running Windows Phone. It hasn't admitted to the totals. We know that Nokia sold 2 million Lumia phones, but that's about it. Samsung, LG, HTC, and Dell haven't reported their total sales of Windows Phone handsets.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, flashy marketing campaigns don't appear to have translated into handset sales. The company's best chance for success isn't giving away phones to people who are sick of Androids or iPhones--it's getting the people who own Windows Phone devices to talk about them positively in their own social circles.

Until Windows Phone grabs 5% or 10% of the U.S. smartphone market, Microsoft needs to do better to woo potential customers with smoke and mirrors.

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