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Microsoft and Apple Wage War on Gadget Right-to-Repair Laws

Dozens of states have raised proposals to make it easier to fix devices for consumers and schools, but tech companies have worked to quash them.

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Photographer: Johnny Milano/Bloomberg

Justin Millman has always fixed things. He tinkered with gadgets growing up before opening a repair shop in Westbury, New York, a few blocks south of the Long Island Expressway. Students from a nearby school started trickling in with their busted devices and business was brisk enough that Millman worked only on those. Each month he now fixes some 2,000 iPads and Chromebooks, computers that, since the pandemic, have become education essentials.

Sometimes, though, Millman can’t fix them. It’s not that he’s technically incapable. It’s that the parts and schematics aren’t available, usually because device manufacturers, including the world’s richest companies—like Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google—don’t share them. Several students recently came to Millman with defective WiFi cards on their Chromebooks, laptops designed only to work when connected to the internet. That card widget “is not a particularly hard-to-find or expensive part,” Millman explained—but the laptop maker requires a specific version to be installed and Millman isn’t on the shortlist of approved repair providers. He counts 25 schools he works with facing an identical flaw. “And that’s just me,” he said.