When your platform is at a very delicate time, you really cannot afford having negative press about a promotion get more viral attention than the promotion itself. This is a problem facing Microsoft today based on some stories related to the latest version of their ‘Smoked by Windows Phone’ challenge.
The challenge started out simply enough – timed simple tasks with a $100 prize. The tasks required user interaction, and were obviously designed to favor Windows Phone. But last week Microsoft upped the ante to a custom Hunger Games PC worth $1000! That obviously brought in more challengers.
Of course, based on my own experience and the near-switcher stories of Dan & Judie – Windows Phone is an EXCELLENT operating system deserving attention. But as I said … not the wrong kind.
There is a story making heavy rounds about a person names Sahas Katta who went into a Microsoft Store to accept the ‘Smoked by Windows Phone’ challenge, but as he says was denied victory ‘just because’. Here are some of the details:
The Microsoft Store employee I was up against then explained the selected challenge. Her exact words were the following: “bring up the weather of two different cities.” The one who could do that first would win. 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.
My opponent finished a split-second later. She had two live tiles on her home screen displaying the weather of two different cities as well. Why does it take longer on Windows Phone? She had to perform two actions. First, she hit the power button to turn on the screen. Second, she had to swipe away the lock screen. That’s pretty much as fast as it gets on that platform. Windows Phone takes two interactions. Android takes just one.
I excitedly thought I won out of pure luck. However, I was quickly told that I lost. I asked for a reason and was told Windows Phone won because “it displays the weather right there.” That was rather unclear. I showed her my device which also was showing off the same information with two side-by-side weather widgets on the center home screen. After pressing for a better reason, I was told that Windows Phone won “just because.”
While this is just ‘one person’s story’, it has gotten well over 250 comments and generated a massive thread at Reddit. The bottom line – this isn’t an isolated story. It seems that the demands of all the contenders vying for the $1000 prize is more than the Microsoft stores could handle.
But as the story escalated, Microsoft went into damage control. First they offered a rematch, which was smartly rejected (fair or not, the guy had public opinion on his side), and then came the full apology:
Windows Phone evangelist Ben Rudolph has taken to Twitter to apologize and offer Katta a new laptop and Windows Phone, as well as an apology. His Tweet is as follows:
“Hey @sahaskatta , @Microsoftstore & I want to make things right. So I’ve got a laptop & phone (& apology) for you. Email me!”
Will things settle down now? It really isn’t clear – but something tells me Microsoft will think twice about having such a high-stakes challenge again based on a single task!
What do you think – did Microsoft handle this poorly, or is this someone taking advantage of an unclear situation by leveraging social media and a general mistrust of Microsoft? Do you think it will hurt Windows Phone or be forgotten in the next wave of iPhone 5 rumors?