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Apple scores deal with MLB to get an iPad Pro in every dugout

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It wasn’t so long ago that the battle for major tablet contracts was happening in the skies, with countless reports detailing which airlines were opting for which device, whether for pilots, cabin crew, or passengers. The partnerships are certainly serious business for tech firms seeking bulk sales, and of course the kudos brought by a large company’s acceptance of a particular platform can also come in handy.

As the tussle for the airlines’ business seems to have fallen off the radar somewhat, Apple and its rivals have been looking around for other opportunities to keep their tablets in the headlines.

The news this week is that the Cupertino company has scored a deal with Major League Baseball to equip every dugout of all 30 teams with 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets “to help coaching staff make better use of data,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

The tablets will come loaded with a custom app called MLB Dugout, created by MLB’s New York-based Advanced Media division together with help from the tech giant.

The provided data will be tailored to each individual team instead of coming from a central database, the Journal said. At the start the app will offer, for example, performance stats from seasons past and present, information on possible pitcher-hitter matchups, and “spray charts” giving information on on a hitter’s ball placement. Videos of players in earlier games will also be viewable.

While at the beginning the data will be loaded prior to each game, it’s hoped real-time data can be incorporated before too long.

Commenting on the deal, which follows the lifting of a ban prohibiting the use of such devices in the dugout, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “I started in this game 25 years ago and the single biggest change has been the emergence and predominance of analytics,” adding, “It affects the way we judge players, make decisions on the field and the way fans consume the game.”

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior VP of worldwide marketing, said the tablet will give coaches all the data they need “right at the touch of their fingers and when it matters most, during the game.”

Apple’s deal should serve to boost the profile of its largest iPad Pro, a tablet it launched in 2015 in a bid to kick start its slowing tablet business. It also recently unveiled a 9.7-inch Pro for consumers who want the computing power of the original Pro but not the size.

The tech company’s partnership with MLB follows a similar deal involving Microsoft and the National Football League in 2013 that provided coaches and officials with Surface tablets for use on the field. While Microsoft’s deal was reportedly worth around $400 million, the terms of Apple’s deal have not been disclosed.

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