It's conference championship weekend in the NFL, and the highlight game between Tom Brady's Patriots and Peyton Manning's Broncos has an unwanted storyline: all the Microsoft Surface tablets on the Patriots sidelines all broke for a while. The tablets connect to dedicated private wireless networks for security, and are restricted to running a single app used to look at real-time photos of previous plays and study the opposing team.
After about 20 minutes, officials were able to fix the problem. The tablets are now "100 percent" working again, according to the NFL. In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson said, "Our team on the field has confirmed the issue was not related to the tablets themselves but rather an issue with the network. We worked with our partners who manage the network to ensure the issue was resolved quickly."
"Our team on the field has confirmed the issue was not related to the tablets themselves."
CBS' Evan Washburn originally reported that "they're having some trouble with their Microsoft Surface tablets — on the last defensive possession the Patriots' coaches did not have access to those tablets to show pictures to their players. NFL officials have been working at it. Some of those tablets are back in use, but not all of them. A lot of frustration that they didn't have them on that last possession."
The problems were connectivity-related, since Microsoft representatives told CBS that the Broncos' Surfaces are still working, and that the Patriots are somehow switching to being "hardwired" to keep going. The Broncos don't have to stop using their tablets if they're still working, which seems a bit unfair, but then again, the Patriots have been accused of straight-up jamming the opposing team's headset radios before, so maybe it's just karma.
Of course, the Patriots' problems are bigger than their tech right now, since the Broncos are ahead 14-6. "I don't know that those tablets are going to help," said Phil Simms.
It's been a rough year for Microsoft's splashy partnership with the NFL: after spending millions to place the tablets and "coaching" players and announcers to finally get them to stop calling them iPads, they've popped up every weekend as players toss them around in frustration or they go haywire in various ways.
Those tablets always malfunction.— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) January 24, 2016
Update January 24th, 6:00PM ET: Added comment from Microsoft. And the Patriots are still losing.