Earlier this week, Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots football team, said he won’t be using Microsoft’s Surface tablets on the sidelines during games anymore. While Microsoft issued a quick statement in response to Belichick’s announcement a few hours later, today it posted a much longer blog post that tries to offer more evidence that the Surface tablets are being used extensively by NFL teams.
In his rant against the use of Surface tablets, Belichick said they were not as reliable as he needed them to be. In its blog post today, Microsoft points out that during an NFL game, there are a number of factors on the field that make it a challenging place for any technology product:
Amidst the chaos, each week a team of NFL IT staff rolls out the equipment – sets it up to each team’s specifications; connects network and communications; tests the systems; simulates games between the test cameras and the video directors to test the systems end-to-end; recharges devices; ensures appropriate protection from all sorts of extreme weather conditions; and helps the coaches and players get familiar with the set-up.
While Belichick and the Patriots may no longer use the Surface devices, they appear to be in the minority. Microsoft claims that over half of all the NFL teams use the tablets “end-to-end”. Not only do those teams use them on the field during games to check out pictures and video, they are also used at the team’s front office as laptop replacements for ordinary administrative jobs.
Microsoft also says that over 2,000 Surface devices are currently being used at 34 stadiums, and many of them are replacing the tons of paper images that Belichick says he will now use instead of the tablets to look at plays. In response, Drew Brees, the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, is quoted as saying that he finds using the Surface to be a much better alternative:
You can imagine with a 15-play drive, there would be like 40 pages worth of stuff. The staple wouldn’t go all the way through, and photos would be dangling and falling out, and then you’d have two plays and have to go back out on the field. Now you walk to the sideline and it’s seamless. With Surface, I can make plays instantaneously.
Do you think the Surface tablets have been a good addition to NFL teams, or are they just a marketing effort by Microsoft?