Technology

Shareholders are pressuring Microsoft to develop its proper to restore efforts

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Enlarge / The removable SSD of the Surface Pro 8.

Andrew Cunningham

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

  • Conduct a third-party study that assesses the environmental and social impact of improving consumer access to repairs and identify new mechanisms to improve access to repairs, including for Surface devices and Xbox consoles
  • Extend the availability of certain parts and repair documentation beyond Microsoft’s authorized service provider network
  • Introduce new mechanisms to enable and facilitate local repair options for consumers

These are all pretty vague guarantees, and they don’t mean your next Xbox or Surface tablet will suddenly become fully user serviceable. But the commitments at least suggest that in the long run it will be easier to get parts for these devices if they break, and it will be easier to find a workshop that can do the repairs without going to Microsoft directly have to. According to a report by Grist, a summary of the third-party study will be made available to the public by May 2022.

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Microsoft made the commitments in response to a June 2021 shareholder resolution from As You Sow, a nonprofit that[s] environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder interests, coalitioning, and innovative legal strategies. “We normally hear of the” right to repair “in the context of state and federal laws or regulations, but these efforts have been slow in the face of legislative deadlock and resistance in the industry’s shareholder-driven initiatives like these are a more direct, if piecemeal, way of addressing the problem in the meantime.

Microsoft’s hardware division has taken small steps in their most recent releases to make it easier to repair their products, including Surface laptops with fully accessible internals and removable SSDs on some Surface Pro models. But these changes only look like improvements because Microsoft has done so badly on that front for so many years; As documented by teardown sites like iFixit, multiple generations of the Surface Pro are nearly impossible to open without destroying them. And as we described in our Surface Pro 8 review, it’s hard to find SSDs that are physically small enough to fit in the tablet’s swappable SSD slot.

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