Wednesday, April 17, 2024

How the Surface Tablet Won the NFL

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 Earlier this week the NFL announced they were moving to the Surface Pro 3 tablet for some of their most critical field activities related to managing plays and on-field activities. I’ve been chatting with a number of people about this and noticed at my last analyst meeting that, for once, there were more analysts using the Shield tablet than iPads.  Two years ago it seemed like the majority of my peers were really working hard to try and live off of their iPads and now folks have instead moved to either laptops (like the MacBook Air) or Surface tablets.  

There is an interesting “why” behind this and I think it is worth chatting about this week. 

Two Hard-to-Beat Advantages

In talking to a number of people around the NFL deal and in a number of legal offices, where the decision process is similar, I’ve come away with two big reasons why the Surface Pro 3 tablet is kicking the iPad and other tablets off the island. The first is security.  

The vast majority of tablets simply won’t run the security packages that have been mandates by a number of industries and governmental agencies.  These tablets will have what is basically the most valuable information the various NFL teams have, the information on plays and players. Other teams and those that bet on games would find that information invaluable if they were to get their hands on it.  

The other thing that works with these tablets is they run legacy software that the teams have come to depend on.   The legal offices I’ve spoken with say similar things. They need something secure, a machine that will run their data management packages – which generally run on Windows and nothing else. And given it is massively difficult to both move a database like this to a new platform and retrain attorneys (often the harder of the two tasks) they find migration to be excessively time consumer, painful, and annoying.  

Why the Surface?

There are a number of Windows 8 tablets in the market. But what makes the Surface Pro 3 stand out is its larger screen, better battery life, and tablet centric focus. 

If you are trying to replace an iPad then you need something that is designed to be a tablet – not designed to be a laptop that converts into a tablet. The Surface comes closest to that design element and at nearly 12” the display is at the minimum recommended for Windows making it, for now, the best Windows tablet alternative.  

Also important: the latest version is both relatively distinctive and attractive, making it less likely the users will put up as much of a fuss if they don’t get the iPad they might have instead wanted.   

The Right Tool for the Job

In the end, while the iPad remains far more popular for consumer use, for business use other products tend to perform better.  

Windows tablets in particular seem to be favored more where legacy software support is crucial and high security is a requirement.  Of the Windows tablets, the best tablet-oriented product is Surface because it balances better the Windows requirements with the portrait mode that that tablets are famous for.  That is why it is increasingly favored by organizations like the NFL and vertical markets like the Legal segment.  Interestingly, this segment actually tends to favor Corel Office over Microsoft Office as well, which also likely leads the to the Microsoft platform.  

One final thing: the NFL is actually locking down their Windows implementation of Surface because Windows is not immune to users foolishly installing malware that could be used to compromise its security. Regardless of the platform, the most secure scenario will always be one where the user can be prevented from doing something stupid.   Something to remember if you have similar security requirements.  

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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