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An independent study Microsoft funded recently showed that improving repair processes could prevent greenhouse gases and avoid e-waste. But it’s easy to “study” an issue, harder to solve it. Unfortunately, Microsoft killed its best tool to tackle repairability—brick and mortar Microsoft Stores.
In many ways, this is a tale as old as Microsoft. The company has a bad habit of trying to create or mimic a good idea, getting nowhere with it, then giving up—only to have another company come along and do it better. Before the iPad, there was the Microsoft Surface (the giant coffee table touchscreen). Before the iPhone, there was Windows Mobile. Before the Apple Watch, there was Microsoft Spot. Before Google Earth, there was Terraserver.
And that’s just ideas it tried to create, let alone the ones it attempted to adapt from other companies, like Zune, Windows Phone, and the Microsoft Store. All “failures” by any reasonable measurement. But that last one, the Microsoft Store? It could have the key to Microsoft’s promise to support the Right to Repair drive.
Though one could argue it’s a begrudging agreement, Microsoft says that Right to Repair and environmental sustainability are important goals. Like most tech behemoths, it has long contributed to greenhouse gas emissions and landfill waste, whether through its massive number of server farms or creating near impossible to repair gadgets. But “throw it out and buy new” isn’t sustainable or good for anyone.
Thankfully organizations like iFixit and As You Sow have led the charge on changing the way companies design electronics and fighting to make reparability accessible to anyone for any device. Those drives have led to changes at Microsoft and other companies—whereas the original Surface Laptop got a whopping 0 out of 10 repairability score, the third generation version improved its score to 5 out of 10. That’s still a long way to go to achieve true repairability, as found on the Framework laptop, but it’s a notable improvement nonetheless.
That pressure led to Microsoft funding a study that unsurprisingly determined that “all…