No, people, the Microsoft Surface didn’t cost the Patriots a Super Bowl appearance

Mark Coppock

NFL Surface

I’m a Colts fan (yes, I know, the worst fake punt in history), and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was happy to see Peyton Manning’s Broncos knock the New England Patriots out of Super Bowl contention. Feel free to leave your thoughts on that in the comments.

That said, as a Microsoft reporter, I find some of the coverage of yesterday’s AFC Championship game downright ridiculous. Consider these headlines:

“Tech Breakdown; Microsoft Surface Blamed for AFC Championship Woes”

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Surface Pro Causes Touchline Meltdown in NFL Playoffs”

“Microsoft Surface failure throws New England Patriots off their game”

Yes, there were issues around the Microsoft Surface devices that are used all over NFL sidelines, and no, those issues weren’t with the Surfaces themselves. They were, apparently, network issues, and it’s not the first time external issues caused some hassles.

According to Microsoft, here’s what actually happened:

Our team on the field confirmed the issue was not related to the tablets themselves but rather an issue with the network. We worked with our partners who manage the network to ensure the issue was resolved quickly.

It’s not like network issues are unheard of, nor is it terribly likely that every Surface device in use took a dive at the same time. Network issues are device-agnostic–put iPads or Android devices in place of the Surface, and they’d be just as likely to go down if the network they’re attached to suffer problems.

But the bottom line is this: no, Surface issues did not cause the Patriots to lose the game. If you want to blame the loss on anything, the complete breakdown in the Patriot’s pass protection is a much better choice.

Note that Patriots coach Bill Belichick agrees, while not being particularly fond of Microsoft’s devices, according to Cnet:

(Belichick) said that the Patriots have experienced the problem at home and on the road. Their remedy, he said, was to use the old school method of printing photographs of formations. He said this method was “more dependable” than the Surfaces.

He added, however, that tablet trouble didn’t affect the outcome of the game.

That’s fair and unsurprising for an old-school coach who started his career when papyrus was still the writing medium of choice. The bottom line, though, is that for the most part, all indications point to the Surface platform being as stable as any other for such a high-stakes and fast-moving application as managing an NFL sideline.

I’ll not delve into analyzing the game here; that’s not what I do. And again, I’m just happy the Patriots lost. However, blaming the game’s outcome on Microsoft is ridiculous in the extreme, and I just thought somebody should call some attention to it.

Microsoft spent tons of money putting the Surface into the hands of the NFL, and that kind of marketing promotion does carry some risks. Microsoft had to know that any problems would become part of the in-game narrative. Nevertheless, let’s not blame the company for a team’s incompetence, nor take away from the Broncos’ masterful defensive performance.