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Microsoft gives a win to the 'right to repair' crowd [Updated]

The Visitor’s Center at Microsoft Headquarters campus is pictured July 17, 2014 in Redmond, Washington.
The Visitor’s Center at Microsoft Headquarters campus is pictured July 17, 2014 in Redmond, Washington. (Image credit: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images for Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • The right to repair movement is focused on giving consumers the means to repair their own devices.
  • Many large companies and manufacturers have fought right to repair initiatives.
  • Microsoft has given a response to a shareholder resolution that discusses the right to repair topic.

As You Sow, a shareholder representative that filed a resolution demanding that Microsoft up its "right to repair" game, recently received a response from the company in question. The resolution was spurred due to negative publicity surrounding Microsoft's anti-repair stance as well as the looming threat of impending legislation regarding the topic.

Microsoft's response came in exchange for the shareholder resolution being withdrawn. This is what the tech giant agreed to do, as reported by As You Sow:

  • Complete a third-party study evaluating the environmental and social impacts associated with increasing consumer access to repair and determine new mechanisms to increase access to repair, including for Surface devices and Xbox consoles;
  • Expand the availability of certain parts and repair documentation beyond Microsoft's Authorized Service Provider network; and
  • Initiate new mechanisms to enable and facilitate local repair options for consumers.

There's a lot of vague wording in those capitulations, so what the actual material consequences of Microsoft's proposed actions will be remains anyone's guess. Still, the specific namedrops of Xbox and Surface devices do give some hope for those looking to fix their consoles and laptops at home with their own two hands rather than by shipping off their device for an official repair.

This is not an end to the "right to repair" fight, far from it. But it is a victory, even if the size of it has yet to be revealed. Between White House and shareholder pressure, the repair movement has acquired some fuel with which to maintain its opposition to the policies of companies such as Microsoft and Apple.

Update October 7, 2021 at 5:10 p.m. ET: Microsoft has provided the following statement.

Microsoft has a longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability. We also have a longstanding commitment to building high-quality, innovative, and safe devices that customers love. We have been taking steps for years to improve device repairability and to expand the available choices for device repair. As You Sow asked us to investigate the connections between our sustainability commitments and device repairability. It was a productive discussion, and we have agreed to undertake that important study, the results of which will be used to guide our product design and plans for expanding device repair options for our customers. For more information on our work around sustainability, including repairability, please consult the Microsoft Devices Sustainability Report.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

6 Comments
  • While I welcome the opportunity to perform minor repairs myself (I like to tinker), seeking to get this by lawsuit is unlikely to yield net positive results. The cost of products goes up, design constraints get worse (meaning thicker, uglier devices), and general innovation is diminished. So sure, it may be a victory on 1 specific area, but it also may yield several long-term negatives that are worse than the original problem.
  • They have been working to make their devices more repairable? That's hilarious. Their devices score near the lowest for repairability year after year. That is a price that is normally paid for thin sleek devices though.
  • Lol, exactly. With the completely glued on battery, soldered parts, unseparated board design, and components you can't order anywhere?
    It's a cute front but Microsoft suddenly endorsing 'right to repair' is as hilarious as saying "Facebook unanimously decides to support privacy".
  • Have you looked at the new XBOX teardown videos?
    Both of the current boxes are very high on repairability and, most importantly, MS has dropped the old "if you open it you void the warranty" claim.
    Mind you, the OP is about MS promising to *study* environmental and repairability factors. Big deal. The most that might come out of the whole thing is a policy like STEAM is touting for their SteamDeck; you bought it, you own it, you can do whatever you want. They'll offer some replacement components (likely joysticks) to consumers who wish to indulge. But their warranty will not cover damage caused by the user. And, of course, they'll be the judge of what is what. Don't expect being able to do more than swap storage or upgrade memory (at profitable prices). Mobile devices are *not* going to become fully modular like build-your-own desktops. Because the portion of tbe customers who care about repairability are far far less than those who want thin and light toys. Right to repair is, like DRM handwringing, a vocal minority concern.
    The masses don't care and catering to their preferences is more profitable.
    Money talks.
  • "like DRM handwringing, a vocal minority concern." Lol, Tell that to the "minority" of Billions of people in the world who turn to piracy for content because there are no existing services that accepts the basic right to consume your own - eBooks, Music, Movies, Games, etc - at your own free will.
  • Interesting, who knows we may get what previously envisioned for Direct X Box (the initial name for X Box) - a user upgradeable console faaar into the future. As due to complex nature of the architecture at the time and mind boggling logistical issues. Parts had to be made bespoke for consoles, so getting those bespoke parts to consumers when there was no infrastructure in place and especially since it was at the time a experimental product - completely unfeasible. So, that lofty goal had to be abandoned. However unlike before, the current gen consoles hardware are extremely close to their off the shelve counterparts. But we still do have the complex issue that console socs are still bespoke (for good reason). Some will say a user upgradeable console is a niche market. As we already have PC parts that can be squeezed into smaller and smaller cases. Now with ARC, the APU / Integrated graphics scene is really heating up. However, legally speaking we do need user upgradeable and repairable consoles (as without the 'bios' you aren't going to be able any console games - emulators need these files and due to legal reasons emulators don't provide these files. Not to mention it's better for the environment - less e-waste. Economically it's also good too as it allows repair outlets to able to offer another repair service and due to ubiquitous nature of consoles. This in turn means more hires so more jobs. Which results in more disposable income so the local community benefits and tax revenue for community services. So, yeah Right to Repair is not only a moral, ethical issue it's an also an economic issue.