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Microsoft Surface Pro tablets stopped working on the sidelines of a major U.S. football game today, causing a spectacular black eye for the struggling product just as its maker was performing an advertising blitz for the hybrid tablet device integrated into the game itself.
"They're having some trouble with their Microsoft Surface tablets," announced CBS reporter Evan Washburn. "That 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."
On Twitter, reporter Sean Jensen posted the above image, stating "Second time this season I've personally heard the @Microsoft tablet getting crushed during an #NFL game."
The National Football League playoff game between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots determined the winner of the American Football Conference to be sent to the Super Bowl.
Microsoft had been relentlessly advertising Surface tablets during the game, and ensured that the device was visible by packaging them in bright blue covers emblazoned with Microsoft Surface branding.
Despite having paid the NFL at least $400 million back in 2013 for exclusive branding rights to the mobile computers used on the sidelines to enable teams to review plays, game commentators have continued to refer to the devices as "iPads."
Microsoft's increasingly strident efforts clarify that its product is not just a generic "iPad" backfired when the Surface-based system failed for the Patriots, frustrating the team and creating a problem that became central to the game's story.
Microsoft was quick to blame network issues, although only the Patriot's side experienced issues with them during the game. The Patriots ultimately lost to the Broncos by a narrow margin of 18-20.
"Those tablets always malfunction"
This isn't the first time that Microsoft's heavy-handed sponsorship deal to thrust Surface into the public consciousness via televised football games has generated less than ideal publicity. A series of viral videos on Twitter depict players throwing or banging the device in frustration.
"Those tablets always malfunction" tweeted Geoff Schwartz of the New York Giants.