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Network issues blamed for Surface trouble during New England Patriots NFL game

There was quite the humorous dig at Microsoft during a recent NFL game between New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, which left the former team with little to no play information due to their Surface tablets ceasing to function as expected. While many attributed the issues with Microsoft's tablets themselves, it was later confirmed to be down to network trouble.

As covered by The Guardian:

"CBS touchline reporter Evan Washburn said at the time that "on the last defensive possession the Patriots' coaches did not have access to those tablets to show pictures to their players. NFL officials have been working at it. Some of those tablets are back in use, but not all of them. A lot of frustration that they didn't have them on that last possession."

Unfortunately for the New England Patriots squad, Surfaces deployed by Denver Broncos continued to work throughout the match, enabling them to take full advantage of processing power and win the game. Microsoft later fired out a statement to clear up any confusion surrounding exactly what went wrong:

"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."

So do calm down, Apple fans. If it were indeed down to networking problems, we doubt the iPad would have fared much better, but it's still a massive blow to Microsoft and its costly product placement.

Source: The Guardian

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

81 Comments
  • Surfacegate, brought to you by Apple.
  • At least it's a good thing it wasn't a BSOD, otherwise MSFT would have been mocked to no end.
  • They still are now. Some media outlets have not update their articles and others don't make it obvious in correcting their incorrect early reporting.
  • Heck, it was obvious it was network during the game. The sideline reporter stated that the wired connection was working and not one news story mentioned that.
  • Had it been an ipad, there wouldn't have even been a wired option.
  • Unfortunately, Microsoft has created the opportunity so they must live with it or do something about it. Based on their track record lately, they will just live with it.
  • Live with what. People blaming their devices due to a bad network setup? Is Microsoft responsible for setting up everyone's network now???
  • Yep, and global warming.
  • Why would some dumb ass overseeing the project allow the potential risk of network failure to exist? For $400 million you better be smart enough to call out your "partners" to fix things that put you at risk.
  • Airport hardware?
  • I love to see tough guys cry. Hahaha, better luck next year!
  • Wireless capability was reduced due to a partially deflated network responder
  • It's a shame that some people blame the tablet rather than the underlying issue, as devices rely heavily on underlying hardware and separate components. I guess that's the issue with trying to make some hardware like networking equipment appear transparent - people won't blame it if it fails if it's hard to see.
  • The general populace I largely ignorant to the basics of how electronics work. Many feel that "when I turn it on, I should work" and will cycle through "defective" products until they find one that is plug 'n play.
  • If I budgeted $400 million for a product showcase, you are damn right the mofo better work when I turn it on. The project managers head ought to be on a platter on Satyas desk right now.
  • No its a shame that a $400 million dollar investment got a product team that couldn't see this coming and were not capable of managing it.
  • Now Patriot fans will have an excuse for losing! Face it you had the tablets the whole game and it didn't help so stop crying about it!
  • Yet every tech blog's headlines (except this one) are "Microsoft Surfaces failed".  Of course it was a network issue.  Do people really think all of the tablets died at once, but only for one team?  
  • I was gonna say the same thing. All tablets get a network issue at the same time? Sigh! These tech bloggers are pathetic.
  • Yeah, but by now we all know those idiots just copy and paste. However I loved the one tweet: "when they work they're iPads, when they don't they're Surfaces".
  • Since Google is the network provider do you really think it's random? Does it matter? The team lead letting that risk remain should be called out.
  • Wow, you really have a grudge against the PM/Lead on this don't you? Relax dude, network issues happen to EVERYONE.
  • No backup network...interesting.. Pats couldn't cheat...interesting....
  • If the app used by the team was developed properly, a clear error message was shown informing the user about a network problem.
     
  • My thought exactly. Microsoft tends to hide errors and that frustrates the hell out of users.
  • Microsoft: All technicality and none of user friendliness
  • You mean the network icon on the lower right of your screen that tells you if you're connected?
  • But what about limited connectivity since IP collision? In Windows 10 the network failing reasons are hidden and in Windows 7 you got straightforward what happened, as Windows 10 philosophy is believe that nobody of the users can be technician or with the extra information solve a thing
  • Can't win the SB every year, gotta give others a chance.
  • If you read the article by the verge. You would see that they are just complete ****** bags. They raked Microsoft over the coals on this one. They jumped at the opportunity to. Give Microsoft a bad name. With this incident. And who wrote the article. That ****** nilay Patel.
  • I wouldn't expect any nfl suit, coach or player to understand how a network works.
  • Or many of the people who watch the NFL
  • It's a perfect game, don't bag the game
  • Ok..... Would you expect Tech Writers to understand it are they too dumb?
  • Nilay can be annoying. I've stopped regularly reading the Verge because of their obvious bias.
  • Because Microsoft Windows OS stigmatized that is why, even if they change the name will still stigmatized like an inferior system which tends to fail that is why
  • I thought NFL rules were that if one team has issues with their Surface, that the other team has to stop using theirs also. At least that's what I read earlier in the season - I think it was in the Cowboys / Redskins game?      
  • Because they worked when plugged in. IF they failed while plugged in...then yes the otherside would have to stop....
  • Why would you keep stuff like that in the cloud, and not in the physical memory of the device?  It's like adding another failure point, which is what happened.  If they're worried about security, the coaches could keep the data on flash drives tethered to a lanyard that they wear. Also, I think MS should be allowed to sue any media outlets that don't post a retraction.  Unless they come to find that Cortana is interfering with games to help the results of Bing's sports predictions, and crashed the Pat's network on purpose, lol.
  • Because these are live images of the game that they're evaluating to make decisions on changes they need to make to their game plan. In the old days, they would have printers in the sidelines to prune out the pictures.
  • It's not pre-prepared information that can be stored on each device pre-game. They're used to review video and photos from previous plays. Much of the information they're looking at didn't even exist 30-45 seconds prior that that specific point in time. How would you propose to have that information instantly stored locally on every tablet?  
  • I thought it was just for showing them plays that they wanted to run, not replays of what had just happened.  Obviously they can't store replays on the physical memory.  I was under the impression that they used it like a playbook, which obviously, could be stored in physical memory.  I don't see not being able to watch replays on a tablet as being a crippling thing to the team.
  • Why do people who don't know anything about a subject still feel compelled to chime in with an opinion? You thought wrong and your impression was mistaken. The Surfaces are used to review prior plays. Not being able to view them is a very big deal.
  • For the same reason people come through a week later and act like they're superior to everyone else; this is the Internet. I formed an opinion based on what I knew at the time on the subject, from what I read in the article. I have not seen them mention Surfaces or what they use them for in any games I've watched, nor did I see this particular game. Is it nice for them to be able to see prior plays? Sure. But guess what, this game was played for decades before this tech was even a thought. So I would hardly call this a "very big deal". Sounds to me like someone's just still a butthurt New England fan. They lost, move on.
  • I know what could solve all of this. They could just play football.
  • *handegg. But I agree
  • Jeez.... get over it......
  • No, not "handegg" it's called football because you play on your feet, rather than on horseback. Which is the origins of the term.
  • Very embarrassing for Surface regardless of the reason for the outage but why were there so many trolls on the web about it...
  • Smh funny how there's no confusion now as to what device was being used... Back when the season started announcers made a Mistake and called the Surface an "ipad" when things were running smoothly.
  • That's because people have been brainwashed to believe that Apple products are fail proof and Microsoft is rampant with viruses and errors. It always drove me crazy when I would service peoples laptops and they would complain how their $500 Dell wasn't as good as their $2500 MacBook. Buy a quality machine, restrict administrator access to only when you need it and don't use pirated software and you will have a good machine regardless of which OS.
  • Yeah the operative system due their openness' anybody can do anything even hardware factories but doing an very bad driver which will drive to blue screens, that is what happens Microsoft lost the control over variables like the factories authorized or testing drivers also
  • Problems like this with jobs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znxQOPFg2mo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNlBLyf39Bk  
  • I loled
  • How is that a massive blow?
  • Yeah, I agree. Hyperbole much?
  • 60 million viewers, who Microsoft was targeting with this product placement, now think Surface is crap. If this was some regular season game no one care about it wouldn't be a blow but this was the highest rated AFC championship game in 30 years. 
  • Not surprised, the surface pro has network issues. ​
  • Network issues? Blame it on Windows BETA Aka 10!!
  • They ceased to function, as expected.
  • I wonder what happens when such people back up at the mall parking lot and hit some unfortunate pedestrian. Do they say that their vehicle failed?
  • I knew it was a network issue right away...there is no way mass amounts of Surface tablets would just stop working, it had to be a network issue.
  • Maybe someone had 2.4 and 5Ghz with the same SSID and the Marvel Avastar derped out as usual. Oh well, I'll keep an eye out for WiFi/Bluetooth "did we get it right yet?" fix number 39.
  • Hey Rich, what makes this "a massive blow" other than you telling people it is? Which in fact it's not. This kind of instigation and misinformation is just ridiculous and wrong!
  • Because elsewhere the damage has been done by reporters not giving the full picture and just blaming the tablets. That negative press is never going to go away regardless of whether or not it's true. That's why the surface has been dealt a massive blow. Public perception has weakened.
  • Denver jammed the signal!!!
  • LOL! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Have the give the cheatriots some reason to complain about how the Denver defense beat them down.
  • Any pub is good pub.  Thanks!  I love my Surface Pro's.  I have one iPad and all it is used for is a bedside remote to my DirecTv.
  • More like karma for the Patriots!
  • I call broncos conspiracy to get the upper hand!
  • This wasn't so "humorous" for Microsoft. This was the highest rated AFC championship game in 30 years. 50-60 milion viewers saw a sideline report that the Surface tablets are failing and will have to be tethered. I guess that sideline reporter didn't think viewers would understand what WiFi issues means? Keep in mind, the whole point for that Surface/NFL deal was to plant a seed in viewer's heads that these tablets are good and reliable enough for the NFL. It's product placement which in this case has gone wrong. No amount of articles on tech sites or business sites can fix the impression millions of casual viewers got. The same viewers Microsfot was targeting with this deal. Humorous, it wasn't. Now I have to head in to a Microsoft Store and get my Surface Pro 3 replaced because of it's power issues, issues many are having with these devices and Microsoft won't acknowledge. Maybe that fiasco was just karma...
  • Uh... Offline access to info anyone??? We build many apps for enterprise clients, both surface and iPad. It is CRITICAL that any important info be held in offline mode for this very reason! You are telling me that if they lost a router, or the network was down they don't have access to their plays????? wow!! That's insane! They should AT LEAST have access to whatever set of info they had before the network went down! That's a short sighted and dangerous use of "cloud" access computing. Shame on someone!!!
  • Screw the Patriots Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • It happens to be Google fiber providing the network and WiFi distribution... Billion dollar investment. Experience left to uncontrollable weakest WiFi link.
  • Who cares what failed. The fact is that a team project manager overseeing a billion dollar investment failed. MS is branding an experience and their choice in management did not prevent a possible catastrophic scenario from happening. That amount of investment should and could provide solutions far before it actually happens.
  • The type of money invested in these types of things bring a different class of possibility. It should also bring a different class of management personnel that can envision and remove risk before it happens.
  • How do you remove risk when the device microsoft is passing off as enterprise ready uses a $3 featureless wifi chip that has trouble finding it's way out of a paper bag with an enterprise access point sitting 20 feet away? The Marvel Avastar should have been trashed 7 devices ago...
  • I wonder why laptops use Intel or broadcomm chipsets for WI fi ,ah marvel ones are crap
  • In fairness, with those Marvell WiFi chips, network troubles aren't too hard to come by on the Surface. Still praying the next generation will switch to Intel for WiFi. Fingers crossed!
  • Prefer Atheros over Intel for WiFi