NFL Expands Its Microsoft Surface Usage

Posted on August 11, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 32 Comments

NFL Expands Its Microsoft Surface Usage

Microsoft may have a Surface reliability problem on its hands this week, but the National Football League (NFL) is expanding its use of Surface devices in the 2017 season.

“This year, you’ll notice Microsoft Surface showing off its versatility in some interesting new places during NFL games,” Microsoft general manager Robert Matthews writes. “The power and versatility of Microsoft Surface make it a valuable tool for players, coaches, referees and front office personnel as the game evolves.”

Microsoft will pay the NFL an estimated $400 million over the course of its five-year deal. But there have been many setbacks, including TV announcers repeatedly referring to them as “iPads” and players taking out their on-field frustrations on the devices. But the biggest embarrassment, perhaps, was when New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick went on an extended rant against the Surface late last season, noting that they were “just too undependable.”

His comments about Surface reliability issues should resonate today given the recent Consumer Reports kerfuffle. Plus, Belichick’s Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl, yet again, and this time in dramatic fashion. He must be doing something right.

But the NFL is nonetheless pretty pleased with Surface, or perhaps there’s been an expanding investment from Microsoft. Either way, the league is using the devices in more places this season.

The most notable change is that referees will now use Surface Pro 4 devices as portable instant-replay systems on-field. Because of communications issues that Belichick and other coaches complained about in the past, however, these Surface devices will utilize wired connections for better reliability. One Instant Replay system will be positioned at each end of the field, Microsoft says.


Additionally, the NFL is expanding its use of Surface devices to include medical staff who need to make decisions about player health and safety during games. “Medical staffs will have access to the NFL’s Game Management System, an app that displays key moments in every game and allows for data collection and sharing across games,” Matthews says.