Microsoft has a problem in New England.
New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick has spent his career destroying the hopes and dreams of the competition. If that was not enough he is now angry with Microsoft and their Surface tablets.
Microsoft entered into a $400 million deal with the NFL back in mid-2013, beating out Apple and other tablet makers. The goal was simple: To bring the NFL into the 21st century and provide coaches and players with the most up-to-date information possible, in real time, on the field field during games.
The deal has been a mixed bag. The NFL started using Surface Pro 2 tablets during the month in which Microsoft launched a much improved Surface Pro 3, and on-air commentators, players and coaches continued to refer to the devices as iPads for years, giving Apple free publicity and rightly upsetting the big wigs at Microsoft.
Things have only gotten worse.
That is because this week, Coach Belichick went on an extended rant about his bad experiences with Surface, and declared that he would no longer use the devices.
The most heated issue prior to this latest problem occurred back in January, when the Patriots lost the AFC Championship by two points to my Denver Broncos who of course went on to win Super Bowl 50. The morning after the loss, Belichick complained about the many ways and times in which the Surface tablets the Patriots were using kept failing, most notably during a Broncos touchdown drive.
You can read my article that I posted after that great AFC championship where I wrote about the Surface problems on the Patriot’s sideline that day.
The malfunctions were so bad that the NFL required the Patriots to shut down all of their Surfaces during that drive, while the suddenly surging Broncos were not required to do so. So they were blind, so to speak, while technicians tried to solve the problem.
Belichick didn’t actually blame the Surface tablets for the loss but he repeatedly noted that these kinds of issues were “common”.
“I’m done with the tablets,” Belichick said this week, and about 10 days after he had an infamous on-field hissy fit in which he tried to destroy one of the failing devices. “They’re just too undependable.”
“I just can’t take it anymore,” he noted, adding that he would “stick with [paper] pictures,” which “several other [NFL] coaches do as well,” presumably for the same reason.
Is the Surface a Victim of Circumstances?
Bill Belichick is 64 years old, and while many will believe that age and perhaps technology phobia plays into his worldview, don’t be fooled. Say what you will about the man, but he is among the winnigest of NFL coaches in history and his team has been the most feared adversary in the league for the past decade and a half.
To be fair, the Surface failures often involve communications equipment, which Belichick has explained is complex, with numerous on-field systems often interfering with each other. There are days when the game starts and the equipment is still not working, he says, despite hours of testing.
Not Ready for “NFL” Prime Time?
The thing that resonates with me is that the complexity and unreliability of using a Surface outweighs its benefits when considering the fast paced – high stakes of NFL games. High end technology, like Microsoft’s Surface tablets are complex and can become unreliable which will drive coaching staffs crazy as the game moves on – even if their tablets are locked up or rebooting.
“It’s basically a problem every week,” Belichick said. “For me, it’s a personal decision. I’m done with the tablets. I’ll use the paper pictures from here on, because I have given it my best shot. I’ve tried to work through the process. But it just doesn’t work for me, and that’s because there’s no consistency to it.”
Unfortunately Microsoft’s Surface may be “trusted by the pros,” as Microsoft’s Surface NFL web site claims. It’s just not trusted by the best head coach in the NFL.