Corp. thought it had scored a touchdown when it struck a
multiyear deal with the NFL that would allow teams to
use the company’s Surface tablets during games.
bad television announcers keep referring to the devices
tablet computers, covered in bright blue protective
cases, have become a familiar sight on the sidelines
this season as coaches and players turn to them to study
opponents’ moves, review previous possessions and
strategize. They’re replacing the pages of
black-and-white photographs that had long been printed
out using fax machines and printers and delivered in
binders to teams dozens of times during a game.
confusion over the Surface tablets began during Week One
of the season, when Fox commentator John Lynch told
viewers that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees
was "not watching movies on his iPad" during a
game. Lynch made things more awkward when he then said
players had "iPad-like tools."
similar slip-up occurred on "Monday Night
Football" last week when ESPN’s Trent Dilfer
wondered how long it took Cardinals assistant head coach
Tom Moore "to learn how to use the iPad."
at Sunday’s game between the San Diego Chargers and
the Seattle Seahawks, a television announcer balked when
told the teams were using Surface devices.
I thought it was an iPad," he said.
which reportedly paid $400 million to be the
"official sideline technology sponsor of the
NFL," is understandably miffed at the free
publicity being bestowed upon Apple Inc., one of its
the majority of our friends in the booth correctly
identifying the Surface on NFL sidelines, we’re
working with the league to coach up a select few,"
a Microsoft spokesman said.
blunders highlight the difficulty that many tech
companies — even enormous ones such as Microsoft —
face in a country dominated by iPhones and iPads.
an Everest-like challenge for Microsoft, as well as
other tech players that play in the tablet world, to
distinguish themselves as their own brand," said
Daniel Ives, managing director at FBR Capital Markets.
"Apple has essentially established the tablet
market as iPad, and part of what Microsoft is trying to
do here is change perceptions. It has a lot of
challenges in its path just given the cult-like movement
is the No. 1 tablet maker in the world, followed by
Samsung and Lenovo. Microsoft doesn’t crack the top 5,
according to research firm IDC.
dominance in the tablet market has actually waned
recently. But that decline has been almost entirely due
to tablets running Google’s Android operating system,
and not because of the Surface.
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iOS operating system held 52.8 percent of the worldwide
tablet market in 2012, trailed by Android with 45.8
percent, according to a report by research firm Gartner.
changed significantly last year, with Android surging
ahead and dominating the market with 61.9 percent and
Apple falling to 36 percent. Microsoft increased its
foothold, but still commands only a 2.1 percent market
2013, Microsoft’s tablet volumes improved but share
remained small," the Gartner report said. "Its
ecosystem still failed to capture major consumers’
interest on tablets."
say Microsoft has been aggressively trying to change its
image as a stodgy, business-driven company. Led by new
Chief Executive Satya Nadella, the tech giant has been
focused on opening more Microsoft-branded retail stores,
revamping products to make them more consumer-friendly
and pushing for big partnerships such as the one with
goal with this NFL partnership was to leverage our
technology to make the game more efficient, productive
and competitive. Streamlining the photo viewing process
is our first step toward that goal," Microsoft said
in a blog post last month.
part of the deal, Microsoft provided the NFL with
hundreds of Surface Pro 2 tablets, which the league
distributes to teams before each game. To ensure a level
playing field, each team is given 13 tablets to use on
the sideline and 12 to use in the coaches’ booth; the
teams can only view still photos, not videos, on the
tablets, which aren’t connected to the Internet.
tablets are collected at the end of the game and stored
by the NFL for safekeeping and to prevent tampering.
and large, football players and coaches have welcomed
the Surface, although many admitted there’s been a
learning curve. Over the summer, teams were trained by
Microsoft representatives on how to use the tablets and
were allowed to use the devices during practice to
become familiar with them.
been interesting," Arizona Cardinals quarterback
Drew Stanton said. "Tom Moore, the second-oldest
coach on our staff, is just getting used to operating
it. So it gives him fits. Sometimes I have to show him
how to do stuff. … He’s sitting there trying to zoom
in and tapping his finger repeatedly on the
signing the deal with the NFL last year, Microsoft
expected prominent brand exposure. The thinking was, if
Microsoft is good enough for the NFL, it must be good
enough for viewers too.
everything else, it’s a good marketing tool for the
NFL and for Microsoft, because (fans) get to see the
guys over there looking at everything," Stanton
partnership is rolling out in stages. Last year, teams
began by hanging Microsoft ads around their stadiums as
well as on the hoods of instant replay booths and
communication carts near the field. Things ramped up
this season with in-game team usage of Surface tablets
on the sidelines, the first time that tablets have been
allowed by the league during games.
Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters, the Seahawks
wore logos for Bing — Microsoft’s search engine —
on their practice jerseys during training camp. And
before the team’s season opener, Microsoft employees
gave Surface demos to game attendees at the stadium.
Schneider, special teams coach for the Seahawks, said he
has been impressed with the Surface experience.
Previously he had to rely on black-and-white faxed
pictures that made it hard to pick out uniform numbers,
he said. Now the pictures are in color, there is zoom
capability and he can write on the screen.
is the best technology we’ve had," Schneider
said he’s not surprised that broadcasters and others
are struggling to understand that the devices are
Surfaces, not iPads. But "that will change,"
Schneider said. "It’s just a matter of