According to Grist and the shareholder advocacy group As You Sow, Microsoft has committed to having an impartial third party analyze the possible impact of making its devices easier to repair and to make adjustments depending on the findings by the end of 2022. The deal was reached after As You Sow filed a shareholder resolution requesting that Microsoft investigate the possible impact of making it easier for users to get their devices fixed. Based on the research’s findings, As You Sow has withdrawn its resolution in exchange for Microsoft conducting the study and making parts and documentation more accessible to repair shops that aren’t official Microsoft service providers.
According to a statement emailed to The Verge by a Microsoft spokesperson, Microsoft’s commitment is “an encouraging step,” but it’s important to keep in mind that it is only a step. What Microsoft has actually done today is said that it will conduct a study and then use the results to “guide” its “product design and plans for expanding device repair options.” The fact that the corporation is at least willing to do so is positive, and it goes above and beyond what other tech behemoths have done in terms of the right to correct. However, without more information, it’s difficult to predict how significant this will be. MICROSOFT IS REPORTEDLY REFUSING TO RELEASE THE ACTUAL STUDY.
It’s also unclear whether the public will ever acquire those details. According to Grist, Microsoft will be required to provide a summary of the report by May 2022, but not the full study (citing concerns over trade secrets). With that said, it should be clear whether Microsoft is keeping its word on this – either it will become easier to get your Surface Pro or Xbox serviced in a third-party store, or it will not.
Grist also cites iFixit’s US policy directory, which highlights Microsoft’s lobbying efforts. Microsoft has been involved in lobbying against right-to-repair laws in Colorado and Washington, according to the US Public Interest Research Group (or US PIRG). If this practice continues, it will be difficult to give Microsoft credit for any beneficial work it does for the right to repair. IFIXIT DESCRIBES MICROSOFT’S AGREEMENT AS A “HUGE, LANDMARK MOVE”
Despite the restrictions, supporters of the right to repair consider this agreement as a positive step. On Twitter, iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens called it a “major, landmark move,” and in an email to The Verge, he claimed it “wasn’t just rhetoric,” given the Surface Laptop’s gains in repairability over time. The right to repair campaign manager for PRIG also told The Verge that it was “the genuine deal,” and highlighted it as proof of Microsoft “changing its tune” on the right to repair. If Microsoft does make major adjustments, it could be ahead of the curve when it comes to lowering the impact of its goods on e-waste and emissions — both President Joe Biden and the FTC have been attempting to crack down on companies.