The Verge has learned that Microsoft went into its "Smoked by Windows Phone" campaign with a relatively thorough understanding of the risks involved, specifically telling employees of its retail stores to "select a challenge appropriate to your customer" with hints for which devices might be able to outgun Windows Phone in certain circumstances.
Clearly, Microsoft doesn't intend to lose to Smoked by Windows Phone challengers very often. The campaign was designed to highlight the speed and efficiency by which Windows Phone can accomplish normal, everyday tasks — and with a $1,000 PC on the table for every challenger, the stakes are high. Sahas Katta of Skatter Tech struck the promotion in one of its weak spots, loading his Galaxy Nexus with homescreen widgets capable of displaying weather for two different cities; when he was able to get to the widgets faster than his Windows Phone competition in a Microsoft Store, he was disqualified for vague reasons, though Microsoft later made good on the offer.
Indeed, Android weather widgets were one of the weak spots identified by Microsoft before the promotion even began. For the specific challenge Katta was given — "Real Time Information with Live Tiles" — customers are asked to "check the weather both at the store and in Las Vegas, or see if a movie is playing at their favorite theater." The guide goes on to warn that "Android users have access to Widgets that can, if properly configured, display the weather and other information in real time."
But the risks weren't limited to the weather challenge. In "Pocket to Picture to Post," challengers are required to take a picture and upload it to Facebook as quickly as possible. Staff are cautioned that the iPhone 4S "has a similar feature and a very fast camera, so it is a serious contender in this category." Amusingly, Microsoft also tells them to watch out for HTC's lowly Status, a portrait QWERTY Android device offered on AT&T:
You should also steer clear of this challenge against an HTC Status (i.e. the Facebook Phone) as it also has a built in pocket-to-picture-to-post feature and a camera that switches on even faster than Windows Phone.
In the "Update Your Status across Multiple Social Networks" challenge, users must post a "mutually agreed upon status" to both Facebook and Twitter. Here, Store employees are warned about a "power user scenario" that "isn't very common": you can use Selective Tweets to link Facebook to Twitter such that posting to Twitter alone with an "#fb" hashtag will post to Facebook simultaneously. Here, Microsoft says this "could result in a tie." The tiebreaker? "Challenge customers to update their profile picture to those same networks," a task that Microsoft seems more confident it'll handily win.
It seems that Microsoft's well versed on where it can't smoke the competition
That's not the only risk with this challenge, though — Microsoft also points out that TweetDeck and Siri can both be configured to update Facebook and Twitter simultaneously. It's unclear how (or if) the company expects employees to confirm whether users plan on using something like TweetDeck ahead of time, but it does recommend engaging the customer in conversation before the challenge ahead of time: "this interaction puts them at ease and gives you valuable information on how to guide the conversation and challenge."
It seems that Microsoft's well versed on where it can't smoke the competition, so it's unclear how Katta's run ever got to the point where he was offered the weather challenge. It seems possible that the store only realized its mistake after the fact and sought to make the loss go away — we can't imagine they plan on letting too many $1,000 PCs walk out of the door.