Windows Phone challenge attracts a bad element: Lawyers

An Atlanta graduate student claims he won the "Smoked By Windows Phone Challenge" twice, but then still had to prove himself in front of the store manager. So now he's got himself a lawyer.

Chris Matyszczyk
4 min read
Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Of course, it shouldn't have come to this. But it apparently has.

Microsoft's fine and entertaining "Smoked by Windows Phone Challenge" has caused one man to retain legal representation.

Vivek Viswanathan, a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Ga., claims he won the challenge not merely once, but twice. Yet still, he says, the folks at the Microsoft store wouldn't give him the prize of a "Hunger Games" Special Edition PC, worth $1,000.

Indeed, he says the manager of the Microsoft store came out and asked him to perform the challenge for a third time with him as a witness.

The challenge, should you have not yet encountered it, asks those with a competing smartphone to put their speed up against Microsoft Windows phones. If you win, you get the PC. If you lose, you can swap your phone for a Windows Phone with no contract demands thrown in.

Already, one competitor, Sahas Katta, has succeeded in complaining to Microsoft that he was told he had lost, when, in fact, he had done the opposite.

Viswanathan is pursuing a doctoral degree in aeronautical engineering. He is not, therefore, devoid of technological intelligence. He told me: "I was not expecting to win the competition. The economist in me quickly hinted that the challenges must have been contrived to give a significant house advantage to Microsoft."

His story is that the Microsoft store employee -- whom he named as Lee Johnson -- was happy to compete against Viswanathan's iPhone.

Oddly, his iPhone had a problem.

"I had dropped my phone so the physical buttons (except the home key) do not work. I told the associate about the problem and I offered to shut all the background apps and I showed him the same," he told me.

He couldn't shut his phone down (as the power button wasn't working), but explained to Johnson that it would automatically lock within less than a minute. Johnson agreed to the terms.

The challenge was to open up a Facebook page.

Viswanathan told me: "I unlocked the phone and pressed the Facebook icon I had on my screen, placed the phone back on the table and as soon as a page loaded I said done, moments before the associate."

The Microsoft associate allegedly claimed that, no, he'd won.

"Since there was some crowd there and seeing my skepticism, I said that we can have the challenge again. At this time I was just enraged but agreed to the 2nd challenge," Viswanthan said.

Now it gets dramatic:

With all the due diligence completed, the associate challenged me to find a restaurant near the store. Again, I unlocked the phone opened Maps and pressed R and restaurants showed up as a suggestion (I may have added that to auto correct in the dictionary a while ago) and then hit search. I place the phone on the table and as soon as I got a hit, I screamed done well ahead of the associate.

I have every reason to believe that Viswanathan did, indeed, scream.

He then says Johnson admitted defeat. "Now the associate reluctantly told me that though my phone did not qualify he would honor the challenge and accepted that he was defeated," he said.

The lack of qualification apparently referred to the fact that the power switch on Viswanathan's phone wasn't working.

He says that another 15 minutes went by, before the manager emerged and declared he wanted to see a third challenge.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

"This is ridiculous!" Viswanathan told me. "If the contest rules said the manager had to be present at the competitions (which it does not), then he should be present all the time at the competitions."

Sadly, things allegedly got worse. For the manager, on seeing that Viswanathan's power button didn't work, used his power to declare him ineligible.

So now Viswanathan has hired a lawyer, who has already contacted Microsoft to attempt restitution.

"I told them of the limitations of the phone and allowed them to touch do whatever they feel necessary to my phone," Viswanathan insisted. "To accept the challenge twice and then say it is ineligible is just plain scandalous."

Somehow, I feel Microsoft meant well with this challenge. (I have embedded footage from CES that shows it is an amusing diversion.) I know that many people enjoyed it and the phones are certainly not slouches. However, the company must have known that the technically proficient would want to flex their muscles, brains and smartphones to defeat the Windows products.

I have contacted the company, which says it is looking into Viswanathan's issues. He explained that he merely seeks a little justice: "I don't plan to get any compensation from Microsoft if they apologize and maybe give me the due Prize. If they don't respond, then I will surely seek compensation."

Perhaps, in this case, the store staff weren't well enough prepared for what might ensue. It is sad, though, to see lawyers becoming involved. It was all merely supposed to be fun.