New England Patriots Coach Slams Microsoft Tablets
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is giving up on Microsoft’s Surface tablets, saying there’s too many issues with the product as well as communication systems in general during game day.
”I just can’t take it anymore,” said Belichick in his team press conference on Tuesday. “[Surface tablets are] just too undependable for me. 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.”
Belichick said other communications systems involved with the coaches in the press box and on the field also “fail on a regular basis.” (And, from this video gem on Oct. 2, it appears they sometimes have help.)
”There’s a lot of equipment involved too. There’s headsets in the helmets. There’s the belt pack, that communication. There’s a hookup or a connection to an Internet service,” said Belichick. “There’s a number of connections. They’re on different frequencies … inevitably, something goes wrong somewhere at some point in time. I would say weekly, we have to deal with something.”
The network and communications equipment coaches and players use during game day is separate from the stadium’s and fans network. Solution providers such as Carousel Industries provide network installation, monitoring and managing services for NFL stadiums, although the NFL is charge of all of the technology on the field and sidelines.
Although the NFL is a multibillion-dollar industry, it only has a small handful of IT personnel on hand during the game.
The answer to Belichick’s issues with Surface tablets lies within solution providers, said Mike Hadley, CEO of Boston-based iCorps Technologies, a Microsoft Surface partner.
”It’s absolutely what a system integrator or MSP or solution provider does,” said Hadley. “I’d go in and assess the situation and environment. We would run some tools, look at the communications, the Internet, make sure the connectivity is right, look at the security technology — I would want a clean device … [The NFL] really needs to treat themselves like a business if they’re going to use a business tool.”
Gary Berzack, CTO and COO of New York-based eTribeca, a solution provider, said two networks competing for the same physical space could cause problems and not having professional Wi-Fi specialists on the sidelines before, during and after the game is a mistake.
”Consider after the game how much analyst they do on each play and each second of the game, and yet for this critical operation, they just about do the minimal in analyst,” said Berzack. “They’re not running a good sensor analyst of what’s going on and where the issues are for each event so that they can do a review of the situation.”
In a release by Microsoft, the software giant said it respects Belichick’s decision, but stands behind the “reliability of Surface.”
”We continue to receive positive feedback on having Surface devices on the sidelines from coaches, players and team personnel across the league,” said Microsoft. “In the instances where sideline issues are reported in NFL games, we work closely with the NFL to quickly address and resolve.”
Microsoft’s lucative Contract with The NFL
Microsoft is paying the NFL $400 million as part of a five-year pact struck in 2013 to be “The Official Sideline Technology Sponsor of the NFL.”
Berzack believes that the Surface tablets aren’t ideal for the NFL.
”[Belicheck] is using a Surface, which is not designed as a robust field device. It’s been ruggedized to a certain extent, but it’s not a Panasonic Toughbook – something the army would use,” said Berzack.
If the NFL hires proven communications or Microsoft experts, the number of issues will decline drastically, said Hadley.
”I believe that anytime you get expertise, people who that are dealing with these day-in and day-out with clients — that’s got to help,” said Hadley.
”I would treat it like any other company. You’re going to go in there and understand how they’re using it and fix what isn’t working right,” said Hadley. “You have to do your pre-work and have it thoroughly tested from the press boxes where the coaches sit and the sidelines.”
Belichick said doesn’t know how serious the NFL is taking communication issue during game day.
”I don’t know how much urgency there is on the other part – from the league’s standpoint – how much urgency there is for them to have everything right,” said Belichick. “It was a problem last week. It’s basically a problem every week.”