In an unprecedented move, the NFL is set to allow use of computing technology on the side-lines for the very first time. The NFL is now permitting the use of Microsoft’ Surface tablets. Plus,this interactive technology will also be made available to the fans. These tablets will be used by officials and coaches, and will replace laminated playbooks and polaroids for the very first time.
In a deal worth $400 million, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the NFL announced a partnership with Microsoft on May 21st, 2013 which would involve the use of Microsoft’s Surface line of tablets during gameplay. This is a giant technological step forward for the NFL, which previously prohibited the use of any computerised devices on the side-lines for fear of giving an advantage to teams with better I.T. departments.
While the ban was in place, coaches would use devices like iPads as playbooks during practice games but would resort to paper during actual game-play due to the above mentioned restrictions. The five year deal, worth $400 million, is believed to be a potentially lucrative deal which will brings with it numerous business opportunities and the chance to bring digital technology to the side-lines. It’s likely that this digital technology will be made available to the fans via a subscription.
A closer look at the Surface Pro tablet
The star of the show is Microsoft’s ultra-tablet known as the Surface Pro. In reality, it’s closer to a PC than it is to a tablet. It runs the full desktop version of Windows 8 which not only allows you to install apps like any other Windows based tablet, but also lets you install full programs just like you would on your home windows PC or laptop.
Spec wise, it packs a 10.1 inch 1920 x 1080 pixel LCD screen, a Core i5 Intel processor, 4GB RAM, up top 128GB memory (expandable) and can be accessorised with a case that doubles as a keyboard, turning it into a miniature laptop.
Recently released in the US on February 9th with prices starting at $899, the Surface Pro provides the portability and convenience of a tablet while providing the full computing power of a regular desktop or laptop.
What could the tablets bring to the NFL?
From a tactical standpoint, the tablets could mean huge changes for the teams. The tablets could have video replays streamed directly to them – providing instant replays for quick analysis and feedback. It would likely boost the involvement coaches and players have within the game as it is progressing.
Furthermore, teams could potentially develop sophisticated apps which could analyse the game and a player’s or the team’s movement in real time. Such sophistication would allow for quicker in-game tactical adjustments to be made and competitiveness to be raised to a whole new level.
From a technical standpoint, Microsoft’s Surface Pro line of tablets are some of the most powerful on the market. It would become very interesting to discover how the teams harness this power and use it to their advantage. We could witness a burgeoning new technological field in NFL where software engineers race to find ways to gather, interpret and use data that they pick up during gameplay as quickly as possible.
But perhaps the biggest benefit will be to the fans. Ultimately, it is them who will benefit the most from this deal. According to the NFL, a whole gamut of fresh content will now be at their disposal thanks to this new technology gracing the side-lines. Innovations in television viewing and interactivity will take the experience to a whole new level.
Fans will now be able to Skype chat with each other WHILE watching games, watch instant replays and look at statistics – all on one screen. Fantasy info on teams and players will also be loaded onto these screens. As things stand, fantasy football is massively popular and providing real time statistics would boost its popularity even further.
It’s hard to see this deal as nothing but a win-win situation for the NFL and its respective fans. Coaches and officials get to benefit from a modern, digital and dynamic way of receiving and interpreting information. Fans on the other hand get to take sports interaction to a previously unprecedented level. This will undoubtedly be massively popular and will only bring more revenue to the sport.
This new technological leap allows fans to connect and become more deeply immersed in a sport they love. Teams could use these tablets to become tactically better – taking competitiveness up a few notches. It introduces efficiency and speed to a system that was lagging far behind other sports in its use of technology. Ultimately, it presents a massive step forward from just plain TV viewing. It essentially brings the sport to the digital age and this sort of evolution can only be a good thing.