Microsoft's Surface deal with the NFL made the news for all the wrong reasons again earlier this week, after Patriots coach Bill Belichick revealed his thoughts on Microsoft's tablets. Belichick ranted that he was "done with the tablets" during a five-minute-long expression of pure frustration at the Surface tablets and the technology surrounding them. "I'm going to stick with pictures, which several of our other coaches do, as well, because there just isn't enough consistency in the performance of the tablets. I just can't take it anymore," said Belichick, weeks after smashing a Surface tablet on the sidelines.
Microsoft responded to Belichick's concerns with a brief statement earlier this week, but now the company is going even further to defend its Surface tablets. In a blog post, Microsoft's Windows and devices corporate vice president, Yusuf Mehdi, defends the company's NFL deal at length. The post contains a variety of quotes from NFL players, coaches, and spokespeople backing up Microsoft's tablets. "We love the NFL. We love the game, the players, the coaches, and the fans," explains Mehdi. "We have deep respect for the teams - and the IT Pro's who work tirelessly behind the scenes to help them succeed."
Behind the scenes technology seems to be responsibile for issues
It's this behind the scenes technology that appears to be at the heart of some issues that have surfaced during the NFL's use of Microsoft's tablets. Back in January, the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC championship game, and Microsoft was quick to blame "network issues," noting that "not a single issue" had been reported with the Surface tablets themselves. While Microsoft stops short of directly blaming the NFL's IT infrastructure this time, it's clear that a stadium environment is challenging.
A team of NFL IT staff is responsible for rolling out the equipment and Surface tablets, alongside ensuring network connectivity is solid. Microsoft details some of these steps, noting that the company will "continue to work with the NFL to address this complex environment and help the teams take advantage of cutting edge technology."
Mehdi's blog post defends the Surface tablets, but it fails to truly address the issues the Patriots have been experiencing. Microsoft's Surface tablets are part of a complex environment, and the company is simply admitting that it's a challenge that it needs to keep working on. That challenge will last until around 2018 at least, after Microsoft struck a five-year $400 million deal with the NFL back in 2013. That gives Microsoft enough time to figure out the IT issues behind these frustrations, and to ensure that its NFL marketing deal wasn't the ultimate fumble for its Surface tablets.