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Volume 26 No. 26
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Belichick Slams Microsoft Surface Functionality, Other Gameday Communications Systems

Patriots coach Bill Belichick yesterday had his weekly conference call and said he was "done" using Microsoft Surface tablets on the sidelines each week. Belichick said, "They're just too undependable for me. I'm going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn't enough consistency in the performance of the tablets.” He also took shots at other communication systems, such as those that "involve the press box to the coaches on the field, and then the coach on the field, the signal caller, or the coach-to-quarterback, coach-to-signal caller system." Belichick: "Those fail on a regular basis. ... There are very few games where there aren't issues." He added, “This is all league equipment so we don't have it. I mean we use it but it isn't like we have the equipment during the week and we can work with it and 'OK, this is a problem. Let's fix this.'" Belichick said, “We get the equipment the day of the game, or I'd say not the day of the game but a few hours before the game and we test it and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Usually by game time it is working but I would say not always.” Meanwhile, Belichick said sometimes during the game, “something happens and it has to be fixed, and first of all, you have to figure out what the problem is. Is it a battery? Is it the helmet? Is it the coaches' pack? Is it the battery on the coaches' pack? ... It could be one of 15 different things.” Belichick: “There were problems last week but there were problems the week before that, too. Some are worse than others. Sometimes both teams have them, sometimes one team has them and the other doesn't have them" (PATRIOTS.com, 10/18).

DEFENDING THE PRODUCT
: Microsoft and the NFL in '13 signed a partnership worth about $400M over five years. The pact includes sideline rights allowing coaches to use Surface tablets for communications, play calling and photo viewing (THE DAILY). Microsoft yesterday released a statement in response to Belichick's comments, saying, "We respect Coach Belichick’s decision, but stand 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. In the instances where sideline issues are reported in NFL games, we work closely with the NFL to quickly address and resolve" (Microsoft). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith writes the NFL was "unsurprisingly" quick to defend Microsoft (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/19). The league in a statement said, "Since Microsoft has been a partner of the NFL and implemented their technology on our sidelines, the efficiency and speed of communication between coaches has greatly increased. As with any technology, there are multiple factors that can cause issues within our sideline communications system either related to or outside of Microsoft's technology. We continue to work with all of our partners to ensure the best systems are in place to give our clubs the greatest chance for success on a weekly basis" (NFL).

OTHER ISSUES: The AP's Kyle Hightower notes NFL teams were "supposed to have more improved Microsoft Surface 4 tablets to use for still images and strategizing in games this season." Tablet use for in-game video playback was "approved by the NFL for use in preseason games with the idea that teams could experiment with them and provide feedback for improvement." The Patriots were "able to utilize video technology in two preseason games" (AP, 10/18). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted this incident is “going to increase the push from Microsoft and from the league to get video on these tablets” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 10/19). YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Edholm wrote Belichick "certainly doesn’t miss an opportunity to throw shade" at the NFL, but he "took a more verbose route here -- and did so by slamming a product the NFL is making money off of" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/18).

LINE IN THE SAND: In Boston, Nora Princiotti writes yesterday was a "Belichick rant for the ages in which he denounced the NFL-supplied tablets with get-off-my-lawn zeal." Then he was "less flattering of the NFL, which has ultimate control over the tablets" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/19). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Andrew Beaton notes Belichick has "visibly shown his frustration with his Microsoft Surface tablets on the sidelines" this season (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/18). Belichick said that the tablets used to provide images of plays are an "I.T. nightmare." In N.Y., Victor Mather notes Belichick's "denunciation of the NFL's technology" was timed at 5 minutes 25 seconds, an "extraordinary tech sermon for a man who is known for winning a lot of Super Bowls while saying very little" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). In Boston, Mike Petraglia notes the tablets "even included video this preseason in an experiment through the NFL." But then there was the "image of Belichick destroying his tablet during the 16-0 loss to the Bills." What Belichick "doesn’t understand is why the NFL limits teams to their ability to work with the equipment during the week to make sure both teams can have good communication with their players and coaches during games" (WEEI.com, 10/18).

SHOTS FIRED
: L.A.-based Loeb & Loeb attorney Douglas Masters said, "A statement like this diminishes the value to Microsoft by creating a negative impression around the activation with the sport. And it is bad for the NFL because they need to convince advertisers they are worth the price to be associated with them" (ADAGE.com, 10/18). CBS’ Norah O’Donnell said Belichick's comments are a "disaster for" Microsoft. CBS' Margaret Brennan: “Apple marketing execs said, ‘Thank you very much’” (“CBS This Morning,” 10/19). CNET's Chris Matyszczyk wrote Belichick makes the Surface "sound like a third-string wide receiver who keeps stepping out of bounds before the catch." But his "issues might go further than the tablet." He "complained that much of the technology in the NFL is wanting" (CNET.com, 10/18). CNBC’s Jim Cramer asked whether Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is “going to lose sleep" over Belichick's comments. He answered, "Well, if another coach does, yeah." The “surface is not as loved as people would like to think.” Cramer: “This was a little shocking because Microsoft paid a lot of money to make that happen” (“Squawk on the Street,” CNBC, 10/19). ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss noted Belichick during Sunday's victory over the Bengals was "rapidly flipping through pictures on the sideline" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 10/18). In Newark, Matt Lombardo writes under the header, "Patriots Bill Belichick Really, Really Hates NFL's Microsoft Surface Tablets" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/19). 

DO YOUR JOB: TECH CRUNCH's Fitz Tepper wrote Belichick is "essentially fed up with the fact that everything always malfunctions and is impossible to fix during games." If the NFL "allowed teams to choose their own sideline technology, team staff would be able to test it ahead of time and have people standing by ready to quickly fix potential issues." Tepper: "Oh, and we’d probably see a lot more iPads on the field" (TECHCRUNCH.com, 10/18). In Boston, Jessica Van Sack writes when Belichick can "win three Super Bowls in four years but can’t use the Microsoft Surface tablet, the problem isn’t that he’s a Luddite. It’s the technology." Companies are "so focused on wooing developers and winning spec wars that they’ve forgotten that real consumers -- like Belichick -- just need to get stuff done" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/19). ESPN’s Booger McFarland, “With the advent of tablets you can see how it would help, but for coaches who are kind of technology-not-savvy, this would actually hurt their preparation and hurt their game adjustments on the sidelines. So I understand where he's coming from” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 10/19). ESPN’s Sarina Morales: “Usually we see Bill Belichick give like, what, one to five word answers so you know there’s something wrong when he goes any longer” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 10/19).

TWITTER REAX: Many Twitter users reacted with amusement to Belichick's comments. TV personality Carol Roth: "Dear Bill Belichick, I will be happy to teach you how to use a Surface Pro Tablet-All I ask in return is that you teach the Bears how to win." Fox Sports' Jimmy Traina: "Belichick vs. Microsoft Tablets is definitely my favorite current sports feud." Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien: "And we didn't think Belichick ever elaborated enough." USA Today'sGary Mihoces: "Belichick said on 'A Football Life' he cudn't figure out how to set his car clock for daylight savings. Maybe he's not Microsoft compatible" (TWITTER.com, 10/19).