In a close game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington redskins during last night’s Monday Night Football matchup, Microsoft’s Surface became an unfortunate side story. Since inking a $400 million deal, Microsoft’s Surface has been the official tablet for the NFL. Customized versions of the tablet are used on the sidelines by players and coaches to review plays and formations in real time instead of relying on printouts and verbal communication alone.
But last night, both teams had to rely on the old ways of handling their in-game strategies as their Surfaces became completely unusable. An NFL spokesperson told GeekWire that last night’s problem with the NFL’s Surfaces was due to “the power to the server that manages the still shots.” So it appears the problem was not with the devices themselves, but the backend components of the customized software and servers the NFL uses to enable their digital sideline collaboration.
Dallas Cowboy’s head coach Jason Garret spoke after the game last night about the frustrations of not being able to use their tablets, saying:
“We didn’t have tablets, and we didn’t have pictures…. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge because you get so used to seeing those pictures and verifying your thoughts. So what you have to do is communicate really, really well as to what is going on. The guys upstairs have the best vantage point of fronts, coverages and the different looks that we are seeing so they have to do a good job at taking and writing that stuff down because you don’t have the opportunity to go back and see the pictures or see the stuff you would typically see on the tablets.”
As often as football commentators refer to the Surface as an iPad, last night’s outages seems to show that the uniqueness of the Surface has made it a powerful tool for players and coaches to review plays and adjust their play calling, as evidence by the frustration from their absence. It was a missed tool, but it is only a powerful tool when someone makes sure the servers the tablets communicate with have power too.