A few weeks ago, Apple announced it would begin to sell spare parts for you to fix your own iPhone, in one of the biggest wins for the right to repair movement in years. Now, in a smaller, but still welcome move, Microsoft has partnered with iFixit to sell tools designed to make it easier to fix Surface devices. It’s a sign that the industry is maybe, just maybe, actually listening to user feedback.
(Or these companies are just preparing for imminent pressure from governments. Either way, I’ll take it.)
Surface devices have been notoriously difficult to repair in the past. Microsoft has made some positive changes in the last few years — the original Surface Laptop got a 0/10 on iFixit’s repairability scale, while the Surface Laptop 3 scored a 5/10 — but it can still be difficult for even enthusiasts to manage some repairs.
Microsoft’s partnership with iFixit will allow iFixit Pro independent repairers, Microsoft Authorized Service Providers, Microsoft Experience Centers, and Microsoft Commercial customers to buy repair tools from iFixit.com. In other words, it’s not for everyday users, but it’s better than nothing.
These tools are designed by Microsoft and built by iFixit, and so far include three tools (plus accessories) which make it easier for repairers to debond and rebond adhesive for some Surface Models while minimizing potential mistakes. As noted by iFixit:
“Successfully working with adhesive is one of the most challenging aspects of repairing the Surface line. Adhesive must be precisely loosened without damaging other components. During reassembly, achieving a strong bond requires precise application of force. While not necessary to complete a DIY repair, these new tools are designed to prevent damage and will help technicians performing a high volume of repairs, and assist in improving accuracy and matching factory-level adhesion.”
iFixit also says it’s working on new repair manuals for Surface devices, although it’s not clear if Microsoft is helping with that part. More repair tools are in the works, too.
Let’s be clear: these aren’t repairs your average Surface buyer is going to want to make; these tools are mainly aimed at small repair shops and the like. Still, it their availability and blessing from Microsoft at least means it’ll be easier to find a repair shop that might be able to fix your Surface device rather than having to ship the whole thing back to Microsoft.
It’s a small step towards a future where everyone has more choice about how to fix their own devices. Granted, the goal is ultimately for the devices to be designed with repairability in mind — or at the very least least, for companies to provide thorough access to tools and repair guides. There’s still a huge way for Microsoft to go.
But for now, Microsoft (and Apple’s) recent changes show the tech industry may be at an inflection point when it comes to right to repair. At the very least changes from these giants, however small, are likely to encourage other manufacturers to do the same. A man can hope, anyway.
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