Shareholders pressure Microsoft into expanding its right-to-repair efforts

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Andrew Cunningham

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Microsoft’s Xbox and Surface hardware may be easier to repair, according to a press release from shareholder advocacy nonprofit as you sow. According to the announcement, Microsoft has agreed to evaluate and expand repair options for its products “by the end of 2022.” Specifically, the company has agreed:

  • Complete a third-party study evaluating the environmental and social impacts associated with increased consumer access to repair and determining new mechanisms to increase access to repair, including Surface devices and Xbox consoles.
  • Extend some parts availability and repair documentation beyond Microsoft’s authorized service provider network
  • Introduce new mechanism to enable and facilitate local repair options for consumers

These are all very vague guarantees, and they don’t mean that your next Xbox or Surface tablet will suddenly become completely user-serviceable. But the commitments do at least suggest that, in the long run, it will be easier for these devices to get parts when they break, and it will be easier to find a shop that can do repairs without the need to go directly to Microsoft. According to A report by GristoSummary of third-party studies will be shared with the public by May 2022.

Microsoft made commitments in response to 1 June 2021 Shareholder Resolution From As You Saw, a nonprofit that “promotes”[s] environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies.” We usually hear about “rights of repair” in the context of state and federal law or executive orders, but those efforts are not part of the legislative framework. The front has gradually escalated into gridlock and industry protests. Shareholder-driven initiatives like these are a more direct, though piecemeal, way to address the problem in the meantime.

Microsoft’s hardware division has taken baby steps toward making its products easier to repair in its most recent iterations, including Surface Laptops with fully accessible innards and replaceable SSDs on some Surface Pro models. But those changes only look like improvements because Microsoft did so poorly on this front for so many years; As documented by teardown sites like iFixit, it’s nearly impossible to open multiple generations of the Surface Pro without destroying it. And as we detailed in our Surface Pro 8 review, it’s hard to find SSDs that are physically small enough to fit inside the tablet’s replaceable SSD slot.

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