The Next Big Tech Battle – Right to Repair

Last summer, I wrote in Forbes about why the FTC needs to take a closer look at the best interests of consumers and needs to fix its tech product itself.

I had suggested that the FTC would probably need to push tech companies to do something that many of their customers have requested in the past. This is especially true for smartphones and personal computers. While most people would never try to repair these products on their own, a younger generation as well as many tech-savvy millennials want more control over their devices, which includes self-repair. At the enterprise level, IT managers also want to reduce repair time to make sure their employees have as little downtime as needed to repair hardware issues they encounter on any device they want. they use for productivity.

There are now more than a few examples of device repairability announcements to state that equipment repairability in specific categories is a trend. Despite laws such as the Right to Repair Act, many companies have turned to device repairability for many years now. The two main categories as this trend progresses are smartphones and PCs. At Creative Strategies, we believe that the repairability of equipment in these two categories will become a table issue to be competitive in the market. This is because smartphone makers, as well as PC makers, see device repairability as a competitive advantage and many won’t need FTC regulations to move in that direction.

There are two main points to emphasize regarding repairability. There is a history of sustainability and an economic history.

The story of sustainability is bigger than the story of the economy. No one will argue that creating material that is more easily recycled, reused, decomposed, and able to not sit and rot in landfills is a good thing. Anything that can be done to limit waste and limit the need to use energy to make things that could have used recycled products is good for our planet and for any business looking to reduce its carbon footprint. You would have thought that avant-garde minds would have started with this process as they increased the manufacturing of their material. But, unfortunately, it was cheaper not to go the sustainability route in many cases. Companies are now starting to incorporate sustainability into their forward-looking design roadmaps, as it will become necessary to be competitive in the future. However, companies often need economic incentives, and such a decision does not need to have a drastic impact on their bottom line. This is why it must also be economically attractive.

During the early era of personal computer growth, computers used in businesses and consumers would have been easily repaired using standard parts by any IT department or third party. Today, if you need to ship your device to the manufacturer for a hardware issue, it can take 5-7 days or sometimes weeks to get it back. In today’s world, it is unacceptable to go without your smartphone or laptop / desktop for 5-7 days or more. A good case study to dig here is Apple.

Apple recently announced its self-repair program starting with iPhone 12 and 13. With the iPhone, Apple has a significant global reach. With an iPhone installed base of around 850 to 950 million devices, if even a small portion of those devices have hardware issues every year, we’re talking about tens of millions of devices that require some degree of hardware repair. . From a customer service perspective alone, it is in Apple’s best interests to be able to complete hardware repairs as quickly as possible in their retail stores and to have third parties offer repair services as well so that their bars Genius are not overwhelmed with hardware repairs.

Since hardware issues will always exist, I think the phrase “with great scale comes the need for great repairability” will be a mantra that rings true. No consumer who relies on a basic computing device like a smartphone or laptop for their daily needs will tolerate going without this product for a while. And if they have to do without their beloved device, it will significantly affect their opinion of the company that made the product.

Apple is not alone here. Microsoft has built repair and serviceability into a number of its Surface products, like the Surface Laptop, and recently announced a partnership with iFixit to sell tools and distribute guides to repair multiple Surface products. Dell also recently announced the Luna Concept, which is not only a very cool laptop design, but also a lot more modular and thus makes it easier to repair and recycle.

While there is a consumer scale story here, there is also a business / enterprise scale story. More companies will look to purchase hardware that they can deploy, maintain / support responsibly and extend device life to maximize their investment and business productivity. Manufacturing products that are easy to maintain and repair will become necessary to compete with commercial equipment sales in the future. In discussions with businesses large and small, we at CS have heard many stories of employees without laptops for days, sometimes weeks, as they were sent to the OEM to fix hardware issues. . During this time, most of the employees were using a personal laptop or computer that was much less feature-rich than the one provided by their company, leading to security, usability and productivity issues. Empowering IT departments, third parties, or OEMs themselves to quickly complete device repairs is one of the strategically important things they can do to better serve their customers and compete for new business. As Device as a Service becomes more commercially adopted, repairability will play an important role in the ability of ISVs / VARs and OEMs to refurbish and reuse basic hardware as well.

There is an argument to be made that repairability might be a non-issue in the future though. Market Watch’s Wallace Witkowski suggests that “As the FTC plans to enshrine this right into law, changing the prices of consumer electronics devices and increasing subscription pricing plans could make the whole issue moot.”

We are in the early days of this trend, but it is inevitable. In some cases, this will require a complete overhaul of the hardware design and manufacturing process. But we’re already hearing from assembly ODMs that they’ve been planning this for a while and expecting it to be a part of their manufacturing DNA. This is a positive trend on many fronts, but also one that will not happen overnight. It will be a transition of several years with positive impacts all around.

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About Lillie Berry

Lillie Berry

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