Fans of football (American football that is) know that every year there are all sorts of changes; player changes, coach changes, equipment changes, rule changes and changes in the technologies used. All these changes are carefully spelled out by the NFL and everyone should be well aware of what’s different from last year to this. One of the new rule changes this year that deal with technology is the ability for teams to use computers on the sidelines. But apparently the NFL forgot to tell the announcers that the tablets being used by coaches and players on the sidelines are Microsoft Surface tablets not iPads.
In the past coaches and players had to use notebooks filled with squares and circles and if they wanted to change a play they wrote on a plastic overlay sheet with a grease pencil. Plays during the game were photographed from a vantage near the top of the stadium, high above the field and then faxed down to the sidelines (the fax machines were replaced by digital equipment but the photos still had to be printed out and put into folders by a team of coaching assistants).
But now all those plays and photos can be stored and manipulated on a Microsoft Surface tablet. Coaches can ‘draw’ on the images with their finger or flip between photos with a swipe. It should make things a lot faster and easier for everyone.
So why did the NFL choose Surface tablets? Because Microsoft signed an exclusive deal with the NFL worth an estimated $400 million over the next five years. The deal also included exclusive rights to stream NFL games on the Xbox One console, use Xbox Smartglass and for fantasy football players the NFL on Xbox One will enable users to view live games and simultaneously interact with a personalized NFL destination that features player, team and game information.
Another part of the deal includes Surface branding appearing on the hoods of the official on-field NFL instant replay stations. In addition, the deal reaffirms the Xbox as "The Official Game Console of the NFL," makes Microsoft "The Official Sideline Technology Sponsor of the NFL," and Surface and Windows will become "The Official Tablet and PC Operating System of the NFL."
But somebody forgot to tell the idiots up in the announcer’s box.
I was watching one of the pre-season games and they happened to show one of the coaches using a Surface tablet to explain something to his players. The announcers started talking about the new rules and the new tablets but they kept calling them iPads…over and over again. They joked with each other about how they haven’t figured out how to use their personal iPads yet and how the iPads are going to help the coaches and how players are going to be Twittering with their iPads.
I don’t know about you, but if I paid $400 million dollars for an exclusive arrangement with the NFL I would be more than a little pissed off to have the announcers repeatedly call Surface tablets iPads. I hope someone at Microsoft put in a call to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and politely requested that he make damn sure the announcers who cover the games call them Surface tablets and never use the ‘i’ word again.