How Microsoft Is Changing the NFL

Pros for pros.

The coming NFL season brings a noticeable change on the technology front. The NFL has formed a partnership with Microsoft that will put specially built versions of the Surface Pro 2 on each sideline and in the coaching boxes. This is not just product placement, though. Rather, this is an effort to modernize an element of the game that, until this season, relied on fax machines and telegraph wires to distribute important information.

First, an explanation of how things used to work. When a team is no longer on offense, the quarterback heads to the sidelines to review what just occurred. He is given printouts of player alignment before the ball was snapped, and he analyzes these with coaches to determine how the other team is playing defense. This situation happens dozens of times throughout a game, with a variety of positions and coaches looking at this information.

Now, instead of those reports being delivered on paper, players and coaches will be able to review what just happened with a Surface Pro. Called the "Sideline Viewing System," this streamlines a process that fans may not notice, but is imperative for strategical changes. For instance, it can take up to 45 seconds for a fax to print out, whereas information can be transmitted to the surface within five seconds.

Other elements will seem second nature for those using smart devices. Players can pinch and zoom to see details that would have been harder to make out on a static piece of paper, and draw route reminders, strategy shifts, or any other pertinent information. And tablets, unlike their paper counterparts, are in full color. Any changes can be immediately saved so coaches and players can quickly refer to past plays to see what occurred.

One thing that is absent from these surfaces is video. It was agreed by the NFL rule makers that video would give a competitive advantage that isn't present when viewing still photos. Instead, this is meant to make the old process more efficient by eliminating the clunkier element of handling paper rather than bestowing a tangible advantage to quarterbacks or coaches. There are no outside apps, either, that could interfere with the game. So players will not be able to use the internet to gain information that could help them on the field.

The tablets being used during NFL games are different than those that are available to consumers. They come with a hard case that can withstand more punishment than the typical person would typically dish out, though it will still break if, say, a lineman stands on it. It's also able to withstand rain and cold, along with extreme temperatures. There's no comment if such changes will make it into a consumer product down the road, however.

What other technological advances could improve the NFL? Hit us up with your ideas in the comments below.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Discussion

119 comments
TruSake
TruSake

now you will see constant camera shots focusing on the coaches holding the tablet on tv

g0ldenpr0pet
g0ldenpr0pet

Lol I can't wait until players lobby for iPads....

tforce33
tforce33

I still can't play Madden on a windows PC.  Guess I won't be buying a NFL game again this year.

redskinStu
redskinStu

Typical Gamespot stuff, just when you thought video game "journalism" couldn't get any worse. I guess I'm asking for it by coming here in the first place.

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

Wow, gotta love these ads in article disguise.  This article has nothing to do about games at all.  lol


Nice try Microspot

Vodoo
Vodoo

Microsoft needs to drastically lower the price of ALL the Surfaces. The i7 version is over $2,000! That's its' biggest entry barrier right there. Just because Apple can overcharge for their crap doesn't mean Microsoft can. And they're actually priced HIGHER than Apple. That i7 should be $1,000 at the most if they want the general public to take notice.

I own 2 Android tablets and just bought a Surface Pro 2 (256GB ssd, i5 8GB ram). The biggest difference between the Surface and other tabs is that the Android slates are just bigger versions of Android phones; where the Surface is a smaller version of a PC. Most of you guys have no idea about the Surface, but love to bash it. It's by far the most powerful tablet you can buy.

memenotu
memenotu

OMG TOTALLY CHANGING THE NFL!

Yeah, by doing something that can be done with any other company that makes mobile/laptop devices. Congrats, MS is sooo great.

flamingboard
flamingboard

How much did Micro$oft pay you guys for this pile of garbage?

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

Tom McShea's last article isn't even about gaming. But it still didn't interest me. This is the only way Microsoft can unload Surface tablets. Nobody is buying them.

foodrules
foodrules

Considering this is the last thing Tom wrote for Gamespot, I would have loved to have seen at the bottom something along the lines of:

"Oh, and The Last of Us is still an 8. McShea out f*ckers" with a picture of him flipping the bird.

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

"okay coach, what's the plan?" "Hang on son windows is downloading updates!"

hystavito
hystavito

I wonder if they will run a customized locked down kiosk kinda Windows, or some customized Linux? :)  Although a modified Linux would make more sense for a single purpose device, yes it'll prob be Windows.  It would be way too embarrassing if it was Linux and that somehow that became public :).

somberfox
somberfox

I remember when Gamespot was about video games

northArrow
northArrow

Microsoft: Changing the NFL; doing nothing for gaming

xcollector
xcollector

So now the NFL has an exclusivity deal with both EA and MS.

rjh_24
rjh_24

damn shouldnt have talked sports with nerds lol my bad

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

Nothing to see here, just the NFL whoring itself out some more. Any other tablet can do this(and probably alot better) anyway really nothing special...

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

A bunch of hoo-ha over an app and a specialized tablet. Whatever...

More interesting is the RFID tech they're putting in players gear. The amount of detailed data coming from those will have a much bigger impact for both the teams and the fans.

theKSMM
theKSMM

This is good for the NFL.  It should help the bolster the game.  At the very least it's more environmentally conscious than all that paper shuffling.

If any sport wants to know good ways to implement technology in the game, both within the sport and for consumers / fans, look no further than Major League Baseball.  Those guys are a great case study on data mining (their new Instant Replay system notwithstanding).

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Microsoft isn't changing the NFL.  Plenty of teams give out iPads to their players with the playbook on them.  Players play Madden on whatever console is out there to learn to recognize defensive formations.  Motorola headphones and sound systems are used by coaches during games.


Microsoft specifically does little to change the NFL more than other companies. 

crujoness
crujoness

I hope they have fancy Otterbox cases for those tablets, otherwise sweaty QB hands will muck it up really quick.

WingChopMasta
WingChopMasta

I have to admit, the one thing MS did right was made a proper tablet. The Surface Pro 3 is a beast and should be the staple for all tablets right now. It is a legit PC/tablet combo. It just sucks they they can't market a damn thing because this should be the talk of the town compared to Apples blown up ipod tablet.


Just a note that I am not a Windows or MS fanboy at all. I use Apple products for graphic and web design I just know a good product when I see one.


rjh_24
rjh_24

now when the patriots are blowing teams out Brady can relax with some angry birds

Chrypt22
Chrypt22

@flamingboard If you are referring to the Surface being a pile of garbage you sir... are just a hater that doesn't know **** about tech.  

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

@xcollector It had an exclusive deal with MS since the XB1 came out actually, this just looks like another part of MS attempt to use the NFL's popularity to promote its crappy products...

theKSMM
theKSMM

@Thanatos2k I think this sounds like a technological significant shift for the NFL.  I don't know that Microsoft deserves the credit for that, but I wouldn't pooh-pooh it away as quickly as you have.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

@homelessgamer  Yeah, somebody will take one of Nostradamus's passages and make it sound like it referred to this.

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

@rjh_24 Wasn't that the team that was caught cheating, the NFL swept it under the rug(destroyed all evidence?!), and Congress almost investigated as a result of the NFL's cover up? They haven't won a Super Bowl since then I wonder why lol

rasterror
rasterror

Just like how they won the Super Bowl against the Giants. Oh, wait...

northArrow
northArrow

@ArabrockermanX @rjh_24 The media and Patriots haters blew the whole thing out of proportion.


Every NFL team studies game footage of the competition, the Patriots were cited for recording this footage in a restricted location. It's football's version of a jay walking fine.


What the New Orleans Saints did, handing out rewards for injuring opposing players was far, far worse, but THAT was swept under the rug

rjh_24
rjh_24

@ArabrockermanX @rjh_24 yup the same team that dominated every team doing the same thing every team has done for decades yes them 

rjh_24
rjh_24

ur actlng like your team wins every year lol kids these days

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

@rasterror Oddly enough that was the same year they were "investigated" for cheating by the NFL... Then there was the rematch where they lost again :D

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

@northArrow @ArabrockermanX @rjh_24 And this folks is what happens when you have people making comments that know nothing about football...



Let me explain this to you in lame man terms. It was the equivalent of knowing what play your friend is calling on defence in a game of Madden. Maybe you won't know every play, but you'll get it right enough that it tips the scales in your favour.



As for the Saints, Shaun Patent received a years suspension, the defence coordinator is barred from the NFL(last I heard he was appealing this but I doubt he'll win), and many of their defensive players received suspensions.... That's the kind of penalty the Pats should have received it wouldn't have been as deep(just a years suspension on Bill) but it should have happened. That's why Congress got involved, NFL is big money and they enjoy many exemptions from normal laws, when they start playing games and favouring teams it is going to bring attention...



Also on the Pats list of getting away with ****, Aaron Hernandez, this guy had blood on his hands(one known case where he shot his friend before the 3 homicides) and the media didn't even bring it up... We heard way more about other players who were just caught carrying a gun illegally(with out actually shooting anyone)...

rasterror
rasterror

They still had their butts handed to them by the Giants. Twice.

rasterror
rasterror

Weren't the Patriots 19 and 1 that season with their only lose being to the Giants in the Super Bowl? Or was that the other time they were beat by the Giants in the Super Bowl? As for my team they've sucked for the past few seasons but they do have the most rings in NFL history.

jeremyc99999
jeremyc99999

@ArabrockermanX @northArrow @rjh_24 If you know so much about football, why would you spell his name "Shaun Patent"? I've forgotten more about football than you will ever know.
 

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

@jeremyc99999 Gasp I miss spelled a name. Still know more than Pats fanboys will learn in their life times. 



When you have to resort to spelling wars to try and debunk someone else's argument, you know you are ****ing clueless about the topic at hand.

rasterror
rasterror

Yup. I'm a native to New England and I refuse to be on some band wagon team. I didn't like them then and I don't l>keep then now. The only thing I can say about them is at least they're not the Cowboys.