In a market dominated by iOS and Android devices, it’s difficult for a new, or in the case of Windows Phone 7, improved OS, to accumulate any solid following. Just ask Microsoft and Nokia. In spite of all their marketing efforts, the two companies have found it hard to convince significant numbers of customers that Windows Phone is the way to go. But that doesn’t prevent them for trying.

Microsoft has gone as far as to launch the “Smoked by Windows Phone” challenge, a $100 challenge first seen at CES 2012, where they invited owners of iOS and Android devices to take part in random speed tests, such as taking a picture and posting it to Facebook, to see which device could complete the challenge faster. A series of videos posted on the Microsoft website  showed Windows Phone mobiles winning the challenges nine out of ten times.

As part of its Hunger Games promotions, Microsoft has upped the ante on the challenge, giving winners a $1,000 worth Hunger Games Special Edition PC, while also giving losers the opportunity to exchange their iOS or Android devices for a Windows 7 phone.

Sahas Katta of SkatterTech decided to take on the challenge with his trusty Android 4.0-sporting Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The challenge issued was to bring up the weather in two different cities. He had already downloaded a third party weather widget and also disabled the lock screen, so all he had to do to complete the task was press the power button. The Windows Phone took just another second or two, mostly because of the need to swipe out the lock screen. And so, we had the first winner of the special edition of the Smoked by Windows Phone and Sahas walked out with a brand new PC!

But that’s not what happened.

Wait. What? It’s clear that he won. Well, according to the staff at the Microsoft store, he didn’t. He was told that the Windows Phone still won because it showed the weather “right there.” When Sahas Katta asked for an explanation, the reasons just got more vague, something in the lines of “just because.” Another staff member said that he did not win because the challenge was to show the weather in two cities in two different states, which his device did not do.

This story created a lot of controversy, with cries of “Microsoft cheats to get their way” and “Smoked by a Windows Phone challenge is rigged” all across the interwebs. Microsoft’s Ben Rudolph even apologized for the hassle, and invited Sahas back for a rematch.

[Update] Ben Rudolph just tweetted

Hey @sahaskatta , @Microsoftstore & I want to make things right. So I’ve got a laptop & phone (& apology) for you. Email me!

Sahas has been more forgiving, finding  the humor in the situation, stating in a post that it was a fun contest and that he’d won by their own rules and that he didn’t lose anything. He went on to add “just imagining Microsoft executives running down hallways screaming ‘cancel the challenge’ is more than enough justice for me.”

I think these challenges would be far more interesting if competitors were provided with two just-out-of-the-box devices, and then to see who can get their device set up faster. Or, complete challenges without the tweaking done before hand. While it served the purpose of winning this challenge, not many people will actually ever disable the lock screen feature. And why did the Windows Phone have two weather tiles running on its home screen? The challenges should be based on which device is easier and faster to use, and not a competition about who can modify their phone better.

What are your thoughts? While I agree that the Windows Phone 7 is an impressive OS and it performs admirably, was it really necessary for Microsoft to issue such challenges to prove its worth? And even if a Windows Phone does complete some tasks faster, is the extra one or two seconds important enough for Android and iOS users to switch over?


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