Why Microsoft is turning the Surface into a giant Polaroid for the NFL

August 5, 2014

Checking what was exactly the in-game formation of the opposite team a few minutes ago. That’s what quarterbacks have been doing multiple times on the sidelines, looking at black and white polaroids photos taken from the top of the stadium.

Welcome to the 21st century -to some extent. Since Sunday, teams can now look at these photos in full color on Surface Pro 2 tablets.

As part of a multi-year agreement with the NFL, Microsoft now provides teams with 13 tablets on each sideline and 12 in the coaches’ box.

Each tablet is customized for only one app, called Sideline Viewing System. It allows players and coaches to flip through photos almost instantly after they have been taken. Annotations can be added to the images.

There is no other app on the device and no other can be installed. The camera is disabled. The tablet can only be connected to an in-stadium private wireless network.

Why? Because of NFL regulations. The NFL forbids the use of any device which can record or play video. Until recently, “any type of computer” was also forbidden on the sidelines but Microsoft got his restriction loosened up to make way for its tablets.

The NFL wants to avoid any team getting unfair tech advantage through the use of specific apps. So, to avoid any tampering with them, tablets spend the week in locked, temperature-controlled carts and are handed out to teams just a few hours before the each match. They must get back into their carts a few hours later.

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