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Microsoft to Coach Belichick: Surfaces Do Too Work!

Buffalo Bills v New England PatriotsBuffalo Bills v New England Patriots
Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots with Surface tablet.Jim Rogash—Getty Images

Microsoft on Friday mounted a spirited defense of its Surface tablets after New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick launched a tirade about them at a press event earlier this week. And the tech giant has drafted its partners at the National Football League to help play defense.

As part of a three-year-old pact with the NFL, Microsoft has provided 2,000 Surface devices to teams for use during practice on the sidelines during games. Coaches and players use them to look at plays and other tasks.

But Belichick gave the Surface tablets a decidedly negative review basically saying the tablet doesn’t work and that he will return to pad and paper. Earlier this month he was seen tossing the tablet in what appeared to be frustration. The public criticism was an embarrassment for Microsoft, which is struggling to make inroads in selling consumer devices in the face of intense competition and a big headstart by rivals like Apple (AAPL).

Microsoft (MSFT) corporate vice president Yusuf Mehdi, responded in a blog post with a defense worthy of a 300 pound NFL linebacker.

“Like the players,” Mehdi said, “Surface has had to perform reliably in tough conditions from the frozen tundra of Green Bay, to the 120 degree turf of Miami, through torrential rainstorms and blustery snowstorms.”

Bill Belichick
Belichick writes notes on paper during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. on October 16, 2016.Winslow Townson — AP
Winslow Townson — AP

He was backed up in the blog post by several football luminaries, including New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, both of whom extolled how Surfaces help them call up information quickly. A 15-play drive, would suck up 40 pages of paper, Brees said.

Not a word, however, from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

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Stadium environments are tough on technology. There are tens of thousands of spectators using their smartphones to tweet, post to Facebook (FB), and order food—creating a confusing mix of wireless signals that can hurt device performance. And the venues themselves mix wide open spaces with massive obstructions.

To be fair, it was never clear if Belichick’s self-described problems were due to the hardware itself, the software, a networking snafu, or some combination of all of those things. Whatever the case, he vowed to go back to paper and drawings.

Belichick is not alone in his tech woes: Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon had problems with his iPad before Game 4 of the National League Championship Series this week. Apple (AAPL) has a deal with major league baseball, although Maddon’s issues were with his personal device.

Mehdi acknowledged possible difficulties with technology at athletic events, writing: “We’ll continue to work with the NFL to address this complex environment and help the teams take advantage of cutting edge technology worthy of some of the best teams in sports.”