Microsoft-NFL partnership a game-changer for teams, fans 

click to enlarge Surface
  • AP Photo/Microsoft, OrangeLV Holdings LLC
  • This undated photo provided by Microsoft shows Surface tablets that will be allowed for the first time on the sideline of NFL football games starting with Sunday’s Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 3, 2014, though they won’t exactly be running the most cutting-edge apps.
With the Buffalo Bills-New York Giants Hall of Fame Game on Sunday in Canton, Ohio, the NFL took a small step into the digital age, as both teams used tablets on the sidelines, a first for the league.

The Microsoft and NFL are hoping that the new partnership, which will this season equip all 32 teams with Surface tablets for sideline use, will be a game-changer for teams on the field and for fans at home.

Up until this year, coaches and players received transmitted blac-and-white photos on the sideline from team cameras above the field that were stored in three-ring binders. Now, the images will be in color and transmitted quicker. Adding video is possible in the future, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

“What we are doing is taking them from paper into a digital world, but in a very thoughtful, methodical way,” said Ryan Luckin, director of product planning for Microsoft Xbox and Surface.

Said New York Jets coach Rex Ryan: “This should be a lot nicer and the quality a heck of a lot better.”

Microsoft is also aiming to enhance football fans’ experience at home watching the games through new features on its Xbox One and Windows 8 platforms. As NFL coaches will now have technology on the sidelines through the game in real time, fantasy coaches at home will be able to follow the their players thanks to Xbox One.

This technology will allow players to see the game from different angels, to click on the live game photos, to zoom and write notes, and analyze the play in a way that you can’t do on paper.

“Using the Surface devices to improve the game on the sidelines the players and coaches can review the highlights of their plays,” said David Jurenka, executive producer of Microsoft Xbox Sports.

Fans can also connect using the NFL Now app through Microsoft Xbox One, Surface tablet or Windows 8 to watch the in-game highlights and play video games while not missing the live game. The Kinect addition can also be used for voice command and navigation through the app.

“This is really cool innovation for the first time on the TV,” Jurenka said. “We put together the largest library of content on the TV related to the NFL.”

Microsoft hopes its products will help players, coaches and teams play more efficiently and competitively, allowing them to adjust quicker during the game. The tablets will operate on secure wireless networks in stadiums and be able to stand up to the rigors of NFL sidelines and stand up to all weather conditions.

“Some of us dinosaurs don’t change easily, but I think it has a chance to be a benefit,” said Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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