Technologizer

Microsoft’s ‘Smoked by Windows Phone’ Gets…Smoked?

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Harry McCracken / TIME.com

The Microsoft Store in Santa Clara, California where Sahas Katta took the Windows Phone challenge.

[UPDATE: As The Verge's Nathan Ingraham reports, Microsoft's Ben Rudolph has a laptop, a phone and an apology for Skattertech's Sahas Katta. Controversy over!]

Microsoft is holding a “Smoked by Windows Phone” contest which is designed to publicize Windows Phone’s streamlined user interface. It’s clever, and Windows Phone is indeed optimized for efficiency — but boy, does it ever appear to have just backfired.

The company is inviting people who own non-Windows phones into Microsoft Stores to face off in a competition. Contestants perform a specified simple task — “like finding a 5-star restaurant or updating your Facebook status” – on their phone at the same time that somebody does the same thing on a Windows Phone. If the non-Windows contestant completes the task more quickly, he or she wins a special Hunger Games edition of HP’s Folio ultrabook. (There are ten per store.) Contestants who fail to smoke Windows Phone can turn in their handset for a Windows model.

Sounds straightforward. But when blogger Sahas Katta of Skattertech took up the challenge of displaying the weather in two cities, he says, he was able to beat Windows Phone using his Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Through sheer coincidence, he’d previously set it up to skip the lock screen and display two weather widgets on the desktop, so all he had to do was power on the phone.

Katta says, however, that the Microsoft Store employees in Santa Clara, California refused to acknowledge his win as a win. Nor did they explain their actions. In Katta’s account, he doesn’t seem to have done anything that violated either the letter or the spirit of the rules.

When Microsoft titles a competition “Smoked by Windows Phone” and offers lavish laptops as prizes, it’s obvious that it’s very, very confident that the odds are stacked in Windows Phone’s favor. (I keep thinking of carnival ring-toss games.) But if Katta has his facts straight, it appears that Microsoft owes him an ultrabook — and that it should diffuse any controversy over his tale by forking the Folio over immediately. And if the company is maintaining that Katta was indeed smoked by Windows Phone, it should state so officially.