NFL and Surface Pro vs. United Airlines and iPad
By Jim Lundy
Anyone watching the NFL championship games over the weekend could not miss the commentary by the sportscasters about the Surface Pros and the New England Patriots.
The comment during the Patriot-Broncos AFC Championship game was that the Surface Pros, which are used to review plays on the sidelines, were down. This isn’t a new issue—the Surface Pros have had issues all season long. It raises the age-old issue of Windows versus Mac or in this case, Surface Pro versus Apple iPad.
Microsoft’s $400 Million Contract with the NFL
First, in the interest of full disclosure, Microsoft is paying the NFL to use its Surface Pros via a sponsorship contract. You heard it right. This is an endorsement deal.
The issues that seem to be occurring with the Surface Pros—overheating, power and other things—means that during games, the tablets sometimes do not work. That showed up in spades during the AFC championship game. My observation is that this is not a surprise.
A PC operating system adapted for a tablet computer is going to have issues. The fancy blue colors and the great merchandising of the Microsoft brand do not make up for the fact that the Surface Pros work intermittently. Even New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick called Surface Pros malfunctioning a “pretty common problem.”
Microsoft contended that it was a networking problem, but we would observe that cellular and network connections are one of the things that have to work on mobile devices. Devices that have trouble with either should be looked at carefully.
United Airlines and the iPad
United Airlines decided to go paperless for its pilots several years ago. They tested devices and decided to go with the Apple iPad. The FAA and United both have stringent guidelines for performance of hardware for flight operations.
Suffice to say that the application being used by United is not the same as what the NFL is doing, but even so, if iPads overheated or did not work during flights, they would probably not last very long at United. One of the things that United cited about the iPads was the ability to download documents before a flight and to be able to access them while on battery power.
Marketing vs. Reality and Selecting Mobile Hardware
When one looks at the challenges of mobile devices, reliability has to be one of the most critical factors. Clearly, there are issues with the deployment of Surface Pros in the NFL. For many organizations using Apple iPads, uptime and reliability has been one of the strong suits. Sales and service organizations would never tolerate what NFL teams are going through.
So, next time you watch an NFL game, remember that an endorsement deal is what it is. The NFL got paid, but clearly did not do due diligence on the solution from Microsoft. United Airlines did do due diligence (and lots of testing) and they are reaping the benefits of reliable devices.