Microsoft's "Smoked by Windows Phone" challenge just shows us what we already know

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: March 27, 2012

Yesterday, the Microsoft world was turned upside down for a little while. Surprisingly, it was a bigger story than I probably would have thought it would be. But, it caught pretty quickly, and spread like wildfire. It lead Microsoft to apologize about their shortcomings, and it left all of us wondering: how on Earth did a couple of Microsoft employees in a retail location manage to get everything so twisted? As I saw in plenty of comments around the Web, we only know one side of the story, and as we continue into today that’s still the case. But, in truth, did this fiasco really tell us something that we didn’t already know? Or has it just confirmed something we already know?

As a refresher, let’s go over the basis: yesterday, a report came forward that Sahas Katta of Skatter Tech made a trip to a Microsoft retail location and took part in Microsoft’s “Smoked by Windows Phone” contest. You’ve more than likely heard of the concept by now: Microsoft wants to show you how Windows Phone can simplify your life, and how speed can help you get those results. Basically, with the way that Windows Phone is built, Microsoft wants to show off how those Live Tiles (among other features) can make everything easier.

Well, it turns out that the contest was to show two city weather forecasts at the same time. In advance, Katta removed the Android lock screen on his Galaxy Nexus (by Samsung), and had a pair of weather widgets on his home screen, showing two weather forecasts for two different cities. Simply put, these were the parameters of the contest. When the contest was finished, Katta won, because the Microsoft employee had to slide up the lock screen to get to the main part of the phone. Despite the fact that Katta was successful, the Microsoft rep told him he had lost “just because.”

Insanity, to be sure. “Just because” doesn’t seem like a legitimate reason to say that a contest was won, despite the fact it wasn’t. But you know what? The Microsoft contest “Smoked by Windows Phone” has been doing very well for itself up until yesterday, and there have obviously been a lot of tests. So yes, while it is terrible that an employee at a Microsoft retail location managed to cause this kind of situation, it shouldn’t make it or break it for the company.

In truth, this whole thing should show all of us what we already know: that our phones are ours to customize and make what we want, for when we want it. It doesn’t matter which mobile operating system you use, either. Whether it’s Windows Phone, iOS, Android, (still) webOS, or even BlackBerry OS. You take the time to make the phone that you want to use on a daily basis. You set up your applications, your folders, your icons, your widgets, your cards. Everything. You do this in such a loving way that you can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your phone is your phone.

“Smoked by Windows Phone” is a great stunt by Microsoft, in so far that it’s a stunt that shows the strengths of Microsoft’s mobile platform. But you know what? It isn’t a contest. Because, as Sahas Katta showed everyone with this whole thing, we can make our phone be the device we want at any given moment. We need to know the weather in two different locations, without having to go through a bunch of apps? Widgets, right there on the home screen. Speed may be what you’re going for, or maybe just a lag-free experience. Or, maybe it’s all about distinct customization. Whatever it is, whatever platform you use, you can make it work for what you need, because you put the love and care into making it your own.

So yes, it was a messy situation for Microsoft and they made a formal apology. But, it just shows us what we already know: our phones are amazing devices, and we live in an amazing time.