Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 Signals That ‘Right to Repair’ Is Working
The new PC will be modular and repairable, and that’s a major win for consumers
Finally, a computer that doesn’t lock you out.
On Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled its Surface Laptop 3, a new device with a detachable keyboard that should allow for easier repairs and adjustments to internal components. The design is a significant about-face for the company — previous Surface devices have been among the least repairable computers on the market — and it could influence the rest of the consumer technology industry.
“This is a radical shift for Microsoft,” says Kyle Wiens, a repair advocate and CEO of iFixit, which publishes repair guides and sells relevant tools through an online store. “The previous Surface Laptop was impossible to open without destroying it. We won’t know for sure without opening it ourselves, but the Surface design team appears to have solved this problem while keeping the same form factor.”
The form factor is a particularly relevant point because device manufacturers have recently prioritized slim, eye-catching designs over swappable parts and repairable components. Take the MacBook Air, for example. Its famously skinny and seamless profile uses parts that are soldered to the base of the device, and the keyboard is similarly integrated into the device’s casing. All of this makes the computer particularly difficult to repair.
Microsoft was not totally clear about which specific components of the Surface Laptop 3 will be repairable or replaceable, although it did say the device’s hard drive, at least, will be removable. The company touted the Surface Laptop 3’s modular design in a promotional video, which should mean that parts can be easily exchanged if they break. Panos Panay, chief product officer for Microsoft’s Devices group, also demonstrated how the keyboard will be removable — a happy improvement over previous devices and some rivals.
Still, the messaging alone is significant. For years, right-to-repair advocates have pushed for legislation…