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David Zax

A View from David Zax

Windows Phone Challenge: Up in Smoke

Microsoft wins a challenge, but loses a campaign.

  • March 28, 2012

It must have seemed like a brilliant idea. You can imagine the pitch meeting that the ad agency brought to Microsoft.

“We’ll call it ‘The Windows Phone Challenge’! The idea will be to have people bring their smartphones in, and test them against Windows Phones, to see which completes a basic task faster. Since your phone is fastest, no one will ever win–the ‘challenge’ is a challenge in name only.”

The only problem was: what if someone did manage to beat a Windows Phone?

It appears that employees of the Santa Clara Microsoft Store weren’t properly trained with how to handle that unlikely beast: someone who managed to beat a Windows Phone with a non-Windows Phone. But as Sahas Katta narrates on SkatterTech, that’s just what he managed to do.

It was, admittedly, something of a fluke. The challenge issued was to pull up the weather in two different series. He recounts:

“I felt like I struck gold since I knew I already had two weather widgets on my home screen: one for my current location (San Jose, CA) and another for Berkeley, CA. After a three-second count down, I hit the power button on my phone and said ‘DONE!’ out loud. I had disabled the lock screen entirely, which is a rather awesome out-of-the-box feature of Android that takes you straight to the home screen with a single push of the power button. I didn’t even need to touch the screen, since the two weather widgets were already there.”

His Windows Phone-wielding opponent took a split second longer, since she had to both power on and swipe away the lock screen. “Windows Phone takes two interactions,” he explains. “Android takes just one.”

Katta was delighted and excited to claim his prize, which at that particular store was a $1,000 laptop. But winning the Windows Phone Challenge, you will recall from the imaginary pitch meeting, is supposed to be impossible. That’s why its tagline is “Smoked by a Windows Phone”–the conclusion was, by and large, foregone. (Though the Verge has discovered that Microsoft told its retail employees to beware Android widgets of just this sort–it appears that the Santa Clara clerks didn’t take corporate’s advice to “select a challenge appropriate to your customer,” i.e., avoid weather challenges against Android-wielders.) Katta was told he couldn’t have won–because the Windows Phone “displays the weather right there.” He pressed them for a better answer, and was finally told the Windows Phone won “just because.” Katta says he was forced to pose in front of a poster on the way out that said something to the effect that he’d been “Smoked by a Windows Phone.”

Thankfully, there’s this thing called the internet. Katta went online and told the world that his local Microsoft Store was settling arguments with the maturity of a second-grader. And almost immediately, he became something of a cause célèbre among the technorati. Reddit picked it up; so did Techmeme.

To Microsoft’s credit, they tried to make up for their faux pas. Microsoft’s Ben Rudolph tweeted to Katta that he wanted “to make things right. So I’ve got a laptop & phone (& apology) for you.”

So the story has a happy ending: Kitta wrote a follow-up post late on Monday. Its headline? “I Got My Laptop & A Windows Phone. Both Are Up For Auction. 100% Of Proceeds Go To Charity.” Put that in your phone and smoke it.

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