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Microsoft Loses Windows Phone Challenge, But Doesn't Pay Android Winner

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It's hard not to root for Windows Phone (MSFT).
Boasting an impressive UI that innovates beyond a wall of icons and -- in may ways -- out-sleeks both iOS (AAPL) and Android (GOOG), Windows Phone is a spunky also-ran that deserves more attention. Unlike the staid and delusional RIM (RIMM), Microsoft actually rolled the dice on something entirely different after Apple and Google turned the smartphone industry into a two-horse race. Along with Nokia (NOK), the two unlikely partners delivered the solid, if not impressive, Lumia line, which continues to suffer under a subpar marketing push. 
While it'd be nice if Microsoft would learn from the mistakes it made with the Zune, it'd be even nicer if Redmond initially acknowledged the mistake -- or in the case of tech blogger Sahas Katta, an outright defeat in an unfair fight -- in the first place.
To promote the speed and versatility of its Windows Phone devices, Microsoft recently launched the Windows Phone Challenge, which pits Microsoft Retail Store employees and their Windows Phones against shoppers and their competing mobile devices in various everyday tasks. If the Windows Phone performs the task faster, the customer has the opportunity to trade their device in for a Windows Phone. If the challenger wins, he or she wins a $1,000 Ultrabook laptop. The competition is dubbed "Smoked by Windows," which reveals how the company believes it will remain undefeated in the fight.
And given the task Katta was to perform, it's easy to see why.
In a blog post on Skattertech, Katta detailed how the game was played. After restarting his Galaxy Nexus and turning off the screen, Katta was asked to "bring up the weather of two different cities." Through sheer coincidence, Katta just happened to have two weather widgets on his home screen for two different cities. Additionally, he had disabled the lock screen on the Galaxy Nexus -- a standard setting in Ice Cream Sandwich -- which enables him to click the Power button and instantly see his home screen. Given these two lucky coincidences, Katta merely had to switch on his phone and win the competition -- fair and square.
But Microsoft still declared itself the winner.
Wait. What?
The employee had already loaded weather hubs for two different cities on her phone, which blatantly moves the goal posts in Microsoft's favor. It's the equivalent of saying, "Load a background image of Gary Oldman to your home screen," and flipping on a device with an existing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy theme. But the employee had to go through a lock screen, which added time to her run and caused her to finish second. Despite this, Katta claimed, the employee was declared the winner "just because."
After disputing the absolutely false win, a second Microsoft employee -- who Katta suspects could have been a manager -- attempted to mediate the discrepancy. He said the employee pulled a contingency out of thin air and said the weather for cities in two different states needed to be displayed -- a rule that was never specified -- and that the Galaxy Nexus "could not do that."

"I calmly and politely tried pointing out that I was absolutely never told about having to show off two different states," Katta wrote, "but at this point I realized there was no point in even attempting to argue since the Microsoft Store employees clearly had no intention of even potentially discussing the possibility of considering me the winner."
Adding insult to injury, Katta -- as part of the pre-agreement -- had to be photographed holding a sign that said "My Android was smoked by Windows Phone" before he left.

Since he posted the story, Microsoft's Ben Rudolph -- one of the main people behind the Windows Phone Challenge campaign -- contacted Katta and apologized. But rather than conceding defeat and sending him the $1,000 Ultrabook he's rightfully owed, Rudolph originally offered him a rematch on another random challenge. It was only after this story was picked up in numerous outlets did Rudolph finally declare Katta the winner and will award him a laptop and phone.

While it's great that Microsoft eventually got around to acknowledging defeat, it's hubris and arrogance like this that prevents consumers from taking the company seriously and can hamstring an entire product line.

Just ask RIM.
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