Short: Smoked by Windows Phone got too big too quickly

A somewhat unfortunate story unraveled today surrounding Microsoft’s “Smoked by Windows Phone” challenge which started at the show floor of CES 2012 and has recently become a US-wide advertising campaign.

I Won The Windows Phone Challenge, But Lost “Just Because”

I headed down to the Santa Clara Microsoft Store this morning after hearing about the Windows Phone challenge last night. For those not familiar, anyone who completes a task faster than a Windows Phone on their own smart phone can win a $1000 Special Edition Laptop assuming they meet some standard terms and conditions. Those who “get smoked” by a Windows Phone, have the opportunity to trade in their existing device for Windows Phone.

I was quite excited to take the challenge, but left the Microsoft Store in distaste. I sure hope the purpose of this marketing ploy is to attract new customers by demonstrating the highlights of Windows Phone, not frustrating them instead.

By raising the stakes from $100 to $1000, Microsoft also raised expectations from a fun-spirited “party game” at a trade-show to a serious invitation for a fair and competitive competition. I think the idea was a lot of fun but I wouldn’t say it was ever fair.

The problem is, it is set up more like a game of casino Poker and the house (Microsoft) always has the advantage of knowing what cards are on the table.

If you drew the right card by luck (a combination of scenario and which mobile OS/widgets/apps users have preloaded), you could technically beat them like Sahas did. However, the odds are highly stacked against players since Microsoft is only playing with a deck that is more advantageous to Windows Phones.

If the prize was only $100, I don’t think people really cared. But when $1000 is on the table, valid complaints like Sahas Katta’s are warranted. Even though Ben Rudolph of Microsoft has already offered a rematch, they should just offer the prize instead. After all, even casinos pay out, sometimes.

Update: And Ben delivers.

11 insightful thoughts

  1. Agreed… $100 bucks is fun. Giving the losers a free phone is fun. Raising the stakes killed to a $1000 dollar PC takes the fun away and makes this serious.

    Great perspective, thanks Long!

  2. This guy was more interested in making Microsoft look bad than he was in winning the challenge.

    1. And that’s why he should *not* have been given the $1000. Just encourages others with the same goals.

      The time to pay up would’ve been on the day of the challenge. Paying up later just doubles the time it stays in the news.

    2. Microsoft set themselves up to look bad when they raised the stakes. It’s an example of bad marketing.

  3. Yeah but it’s a shame that guy is putting the products he received up for auction in the name of “charity”. Will anyone go and actually verify what he does with that money and whether the money actually goes to charity? If he doesn’t have that passion for Microsoft products and instead of keeping them is auctioning them away, I think he didn’t deserve them at all. Maybe Microsoft should put a clause in their promotion that “You may not re-sell any products you win through the promotion”.

  4. I went to the “Smoked by Windows Phone Challenge” in Houston Galleria, I was told to find directions to the closest 4* restaurant. Sales rep didn’t find directions he just found locations of closest restaurant, at the same time I found directions. When I showed it sales rep, he told me that I was trying to cheat and offered me redo, when I found closest restaurants faster then him he again told me again that I was cheating. I don’t understand how Microsoft wants to get back on the Market when they are clearly not follow rules. And how they want to compete with somebody who’s customer service trained way better then them.

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  6. How is the deck stacked when they let you choose which challenge to take?

    1. You choose from a set of options that the other party came up with. The player doesn’t have the choice to make up their own scenario.

  7. I am not sure how this is stacked in Microsoft’s favor. They let me come up with anything I wanted to do.

    I went over to the Microsoft store on a lark at U Village after looking around at the Apple store. I saw the Challenge tables and there was a line of people…and the challengers picked what to do. The Microsoft phone kicked all our asses. And the guys doing the demos have this line: “so you want to know how I beat you?” Then they show how the phone is set up to just do almost everything faster. I was still scrolling to my photos icon on my iPhone when they had already posted to Twitter. In friggin’ 5% of the time it would have taken me. They really weren’t even trying. So yeah the deck is stacked in Microsoft’s favor because it does things in a different way so it is faster. What does it even matter if you do figure out how to win either? If you have to wrack your brain to find one way to win they have proved their point and… I didn’t see them lose a single thing. If I find they have the apps I want I am thinking of switching. This from a guy who lives and breathes Apple iPhone, desktop (upgrading to Lion), laptop and iPod. Microsoft has an epic win…the phone is a lot better than mine.

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