Editorial

Smoked by Windows Phone gets smoked

It started out small and simple as a nice little stunt at CES 2012 in January. Microsoft, and one of its employees Ben Rudolph, got a number of people in Las Vegas to pit their iPhones or Android-based smartphones against a Windows Phone device. Microsoft set up small challenges to complete in the fastest time, such as looking up with a smartphone where a nearby restaurant is located or simply posting a Twitter message quickly.

The end result was that the "Smoked by Windows Phone" challenge during CES was a big hit on the Internet. Microsoft got a chance to show what its Windows Phone could do against iOS and Android devices in real world settings. The company and Rudolph even admitted when it lost a challenge and paid up the promised $100 to the winner.

Microsoft has been looking for a way to effectively market Windows Phone ever since it launched in the fall of 2010. The Smoked by Windows Phone campaign at CES seemed to be the best effort yet to make that happen and put a dent in iOS and Android in the process. Microsoft later held other Smoked by Windows Phone events in Microsoft Stores. A competitor, Samsung, even copied Microsoft's efforts with a similar challenge for its Galaxy Note smartphone.

If Microsoft had just left Smoked By Windows Phone as a simple viral campaign, that might have been the end of it. But Microsoft, to put it bluntly, got greedy. It expanded Smoked By Windows Phone so that it became a full-fledged video ad campaign on the Internet, rather than a quickly  produced effort run by Rudolph.

The final nail in the coffin happened a few days ago when Microsoft upped the stakes and decided to give away a HP ultrabook if a person could win the Smoked By Windows Phone challenge in one of its Microsoft Store locations. Suddenly this wasn't a quick and easy 100 bucks. This was a seriously valuable prize.

In hindsight, Microsoft should have known better. It should have realized that there would be lots of Internet and smartphone savvy people who would find a way to beat Windows Phone in order to get a free laptop worth over $1,000. In the end, that's exactly what happened.

The reports started coming in quick this week over Twitter accounts. One person, Sahas Katta, claimed he managed to beat a Windows Phone device with his Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 at his local Microsoft Store but was denied his prize. More reports of these kinds of incidents kept popping up on the Internet. One person, Atlanta college student Vivek Viswanathan, even threatened to take legal action against Microsoft after he said he won two separate challenges but was still denied his prize.

To be fair to Microsoft and to Rudolph, they have tried to make things right for at least some of the people who have claimed to have won the Smoked by Windows Phone challenge this week. But ultimately, this attempt to boost the marketing campaign with a free laptop (with a Hunger Games movie tie-in, no less) was an embarrassment all around.

Clearly, the reason is that Microsoft didn't prepare their retail store employees nor their store managers to handle what would have happened if a person won the smartphone challenge, even under Microsoft's rules and conditions. Instead, they left it up to the managers to be the final arbitrators of who won and who lost. That was a bad move.

Were some of the conditions and rules in Smoked by Windows Phone designed to perhaps keep things in Microsoft's favor? Sure, but there's nothing really wrong with that. It's like gambling. The house almost always wins and people should know that going in. The problems began when people won even under Microsoft's careful eye. Some of the managers at Microsoft's stores simply were not trained to handle that kind of event.

While Microsoft has decided to continue Smoked by Windows Phone at its store locations for the next few days, you can bet that the store managers and employees have been given a new set of rules and objectives. While it may still be hard to win the challenge, we hope that people who still manage to win are treated with more respect than some of the previous challenge winners.

In the end, Microsoft has turned Smoked by Windows Phone into an enterprise that is now tarnished a bit by scandal and cries of fraud. It's a shame because the Windows Phone division really needs something to make it stand out against the iOS and Android crowd. Hopefully, Microsoft has learned some lessons and won't make this kind of mistake again as it moves forward.

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32 Comments

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Ive said this from the beginning: If there was a store near me, I have already even though a few challenges I am sure 100% that my Android could smoke ANY Windows Phone 7. And I am willing to (this was when the $1000 chllenge) give up the $1000 in trade for a $500 prize and Ben himself recording a video saying HE got smoked by my Android phone and uploading it.

It's almost a "damned if you do, damned if you don't". On one hand, people are clueless about the phones/OS. I know it's anecdotal to hear stories about bad sales reps but I have two stories from the same store. One said the new Lumia would be "compatible with the windows". I went back to hold the Lumia and another rep said "I swore I'd never sell one of these again. I had one way back in the day and we called them bricks." Lady, this isn't WinMo.

So people a) don't know about them and b) sales reps know crap about them and don't give a crap to educate themselves. They're allowed to push whatever device/OS they like. I look forward to Nokia taking over the AT&T stores. I'm going to go back into that same store and see if they've learned a thing or two.

Why are people still writing about this? It was one incident that got a lot of attention because the writer voiced about it and was a well know advocate in the Windows Phone community. Have their been any other reports about this? Please show me.

Microsoft knew other phones could beat WP at some of these challenges, but that wasn't the point. They just knew for sure, overall, WPs would win them. They even showed and mentioned their losses in the orignal CES videos. They even anticipated that there would be losses by limiting the laptop giveaways to 10 per store, per day.

The employees at the store were incompetent and they already learned from it. The campaign was a great idea and I think they executed it well. The expanded it from CES but didn't go too big. It's only available to see online and in their own retail stores. The vast majority have no idea about it anyway. Totally overblown.

wixostrix said,
Why are people still writing about this? It was one incident that got a lot of attention because the writer voiced about it and was a well know advocate in the Windows Phone community. Have their been any other reports about this? Please show me.

Microsoft knew other phones could beat WP at some of these challenges, but that wasn't the point. They just knew for sure, overall, WPs would win them. They even showed and mentioned their losses in the orignal CES videos. They even anticipated that there would be losses by limiting the laptop giveaways to 10 per store, per day.

The employees at the store were incompetent and they already learned from it. The campaign was a great idea and I think they executed it well. The expanded it from CES but didn't go too big. It's only available to see online and in their own retail stores. The vast majority have no idea about it anyway. Totally overblown.


There have been 2-3 issues....Other times where a Android has smoked a WP7 (which I am sure has happened in other places) it isnt reported because Microsoft would not report something negative.

htcz said,

There have been 2-3 issues....Other times where a Android has smoked a WP7 (which I am sure has happened in other places) it isnt reported because Microsoft would not report something negative.

2-3 issues out of the thousands of challenges they've done. They show right on the MS Store Facebook timeline the number of wins and losses: https://www.facebook.com/MicrosoftStore

wixostrix said,

2-3 issues out of the thousands of challenges they've done. They show right on the MS Store Facebook timeline the number of wins and losses: https://www.facebook.com/MicrosoftStore

And that must be right since Microsoft themselves is reporting it right?

I beat my friend 900 times in a row in ping pong by the way.

andrewbares said,

And that must be right since Microsoft themselves is reporting it right?

I beat my friend 900 times in a row in ping pong by the way.

They are most likely right. Either way, it doesn't really matter. This thing is free with 0 risk for the challengers. Microsoft is offering you something whether you win or lose.

microsoft seems to have a history of doing things like this. A while ago, they were giving out free copies of office on facebook and twitter at random. I and a few other people won, but were never given our copies. When questioned, microsoft basically backed down and said they weren't going to abide by the drawing, and we never got our office copies.

SirEvan said,
microsoft seems to have a history of doing things like this. A while ago, they were giving out free copies of office on facebook and twitter at random. I and a few other people won, but were never given our copies. When questioned, microsoft basically backed down and said they weren't going to abide by the drawing, and we never got our office copies.

Weird, I remember there being an issue with scams that were offering prizes, and Microsoft stepped in to shut them down and even gave some of the people copies of the software that the scam told them they won.

If you have a link to the Tweets (as they are kept) or the Facebook group (which are also kept), I would be curious to see if it was a real contest. (Especially when they have had very few actual contests that work like you describe.)

they would admit defeat when its a couple 100 dollars but since its a laptop worth over 1000 they will denied it, sure MS have more money than that but if people see more and more winners then more and more participants will be up for the challenge and like i said in another news there are lots of people out there that have ios and android that can easily defeat those ms employee with the windows phone and that would mean lots of laptops to give away

Scandal or not, you cannot deny that the general populace have been made MORE aware of Windows Phone with this entire campaign.

Remember, there's NO such thing as bad or good publicity. There is only publicity.

Objective achieved.

FloatingFatMan said,
Scandal or not, you cannot deny that the general populace have been made MORE aware of Windows Phone with this entire campaign.

Remember, there's NO such thing as bad or good publicity. There is only publicity.

Objective achieved.

How many average consumers actually saw this contest? Close to none. This "story" wasn't covered on ABC or NBC. Only on tech sites, where people already knew about WP7.

competition is a fraud. Its not even like gambling. At least at gambling there are rules and you have a change in a million to win.

ThePitt said,
competition is a fraud. Its not even like gambling. At least at gambling there are rules and you have a change in a million to win.

So it's better than gambling, since not only was there a higher ration of winners, if you where savvy you could skew the odds far in your favor to win.

All in all, I would gather there has been a comparatively little number of "victories" in this campaign for non WinPho devices, so I would say that the campaign has been quite a success, thusly demonstrating exactly what Microsoft set out to do.

" It should have realized that there would be lots of Internet and smartphone savvy people who would find a way to beat Windows Phone in order to get a free laptop"

So what you are saying is that Microsoft got "smoked" by ****ing cheaters. Great editorial there bud.

ahhell said,
" It should have realized that there would be lots of Internet and smartphone savvy people who would find a way to beat Windows Phone in order to get a free laptop"

So what you are saying is that Microsoft got "smoked" by ****ing cheaters. Great editorial there bud.

"It should have realized that wearing a short skirt like that was just asking for trouble from horny teenagers than can't control themselves."

ahhell said,
" It should have realized that there would be lots of Internet and smartphone savvy people who would find a way to beat Windows Phone in order to get a free laptop"

So what you are saying is that Microsoft got "smoked" by ****ing cheaters. Great editorial there bud.


Internet and smartphone savvy people are cheaters? What the ****?

ahhell said,
So what you are saying is that Microsoft got "smoked" by ****ing cheaters. Great editorial there bud.

Wow..a big stretch...I didn't say that at all...what I did say is that Internet and smartphone savvy people would find a way to win. Cheating means they would win by breaking the rules that Microsoft set up to run the challenge. I never suggested that those folks would do any such thing...just that they would be knowledgeable enough to win via Microsoft's own rules.

ahhell said,
" It should have realized that there would be lots of Internet and smartphone savvy people who would find a way to beat Windows Phone in order to get a free laptop"

So what you are saying is that Microsoft got "smoked" by ****ing cheaters. Great editorial there bud.

I can see how you would think that somebody smarter than you is considered a cheater. It's a defense mechanism.

Well, if I lived in the US. I would be thrilled to win a Windows Phone, even though I lost!

Some people are just too greedy, they don't know what they have.

sM4llziE said,
Well, if I lived in the US. I would be thrilled to win a Windows Phone, even though I lost!

Some people are just too greedy, they don't know what they have.

The complaints aren't really from people who lost, they're from people who should have won...

sM4llziE said,
Well, if I lived in the US. I would be thrilled to win a Windows Phone, even though I lost!

Some people are just too greedy, they don't know what they have.

id be raging if i had won twice and not been handed my prize!

Ashenfall said,
The complaints aren't really from people who lost, they're from people who should have won...

And there isn't any definitive proof that those people won; only their words. Anyone could have easily come out and said that they won but were denied their prize. Microsoft did the right thing from a PR perspective by giving those people the prizes, but if they were lying (which I think is fairly likely, as Microsoft have admitted that Windows Phone has been defeated a few times before in the campaign), then they've effectively committed fraud and theft.

MightyJordan said,

And there isn't any definitive proof that those people won; only their words. Anyone could have easily come out and said that they won but were denied their prize. Microsoft did the right thing from a PR perspective by giving those people the prizes, but if they were lying (which I think is fairly likely, as Microsoft have admitted that Windows Phone has been defeated a few times before in the campaign), then they've effectively committed fraud and theft.

And whose fault is that? Maybe they should have anticipated that this sort of thing would happen, and that the test should only be done with both contestants' phones under a vide camera? That would have prevented all such disputes.

MightyJordan said,

And there isn't any definitive proof that those people won; only their words. Anyone could have easily come out and said that they won but were denied their prize. Microsoft did the right thing from a PR perspective by giving those people the prizes, but if they were lying (which I think is fairly likely, as Microsoft have admitted that Windows Phone has been defeated a few times before in the campaign), then they've effectively committed fraud and theft.

Exactly. This is the point I've been trying to make as well. If they admitted losses previously without any problem, why wouldn't they now? I think it's far more likely that These people are lieing...

recursive said,

And whose fault is that? Maybe they should have anticipated that this sort of thing would happen, and that the test should only be done with both contestants' phones under a vide camera? That would have prevented all such disputes.


It's unfortunate that you have to anticipate unethical people.

M_Lyons10 said,

Exactly. This is the point I've been trying to make as well. If they admitted losses previously without any problem, why wouldn't they now? I think it's far more likely that These people are lieing...

Ben was willing to admit some losses, but these are uneducated store employees running the contest now.

MightyJordan said,

And there isn't any definitive proof that those people won; .

There's no proof they did not either.