Apple’s About-Face and the Right to Repair Software

In a welcome change of heart, Apple now supports more consumer repair options. What will that mean for the B2B software world?

The tech industry and the economy both tend to react when Apple reverses its opinion on a major matter of policy. For that reason alone, we applaud their somewhat unexpected support of California’s Senate Bill 244, which passed into law partly due to support from the Cupertino tech giant. This is both a positive for consumers and a step in the right direction regarding similar provisions for business software buyers.

What is SB 244?

SB 244, known as the Right to Repair Act, achieved assembly passage on September 13, making California the third U.S. state to enact Right to Repair legislation. It requires certain original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to provide consumers and independent repair shops with parts, tools, and documentation/manuals they need to make repairs on devices. The bill also prevents manufacturers from implementing software or other artificial means that would block lawful third-party repair.

Apple’s about-face

Despite their size and success, Apple has typically not been as keen to apply lobbying pressure as some of its contemporaries – with the Right to Repair being a notable exception. A highly experience-focused brand, the company has imposed sharp limits on who can officially fix its hardware, including making the process more difficult for consumers themselves. Likewise, Apple has attempted to counter the capabilities of third-party repair services in various ways over the years, a battle that largely kicked off the Right to Repair conversation in popular media.

The hardware household name had already begun softening its stance of late, with revised self-repair options that reflect a somewhat gentler attitude toward non-OEM product care. But allowing consumers to fix their own goods and backing sweeping legislation that would take control out of their hands in the favor of outside companies are two very different things. While it’s easy to understand why Right to Repair is the correct move for consumers, it still wasn’t necessarily a business-first move by Apple management. Rather, it reflects the environmental and corporate responsibility concerns the company took head-on by changing its mind.

The ‘California Effect’ and the Right to Repair software

SB 244 doesn’t just state “consumers can now repair their phones and appliances” with no basis of action. It goes deeper than that by forcing certain manufacturers to create what amounts to a repair-friendly atmosphere – what the bill’s language calls “a fair marketplace for the repair” of various equipment – for both customers and third-party repair services.

There are currently over 40 Right to Repair bills either active or currently being considered in the United States, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the number being so high because some states have multiple bills reflecting multiple facets of the issue. As more pass, except companies to get more serious about their individual Right to Repair policies. The so-called California Effect, by which entire industries change nationwide to suit regulatory changes set forth in the Golden State, is a real and pervasive thing and suggests their sweeping Right to Repair legislation could push change that companies apply nationwide by default.

The charge for Right to Repair also makes sense from a financial and business growth perspective.

What could this mean for businesses?

In many ways, infrastructural B2B software purchases mirror major electronic, appliance, and vehicle purchases in the home. Both categories reflect costly purchases for the person or entity cutting the check. Many customers in these contexts would be fine with extending the life of what they’ve bought through a third-party service when the alternative is total replacement. Perhaps the majority would.

Just like you don’t need to replace the logic board on an iPhone to repair a lightly cracked screen or buy a whole new car door to buff out a shopping cart ding, on-premises business software implementations can likewise be remediated without needing to modify the source code, which avoids costly upgrades.

The charge for Right to Repair also makes sense from a financial and business growth perspective.

When businesses can choose to extend the life of their current working infrastructure by continuing to use the software they have, everyone but the OEM at the top gets more value from the transaction. The customer company not only saves money on the actual act of updating, but it also achieves a greater level of detailed control over the way its IT roadmap flows.

TPSM and the Right to Repair software

There’s a strong environmental hook to this story as well, of course. Businesses don’t just spend too much when they throw away perfectly good hardware – powered by working software that’s been moved to end of support (EOS) status by the OEM – out to the landfill. They also put unnecessary pressure on the environment.

Think about just the technology running business software in an average large enterprise. Every desktop, laptop, server, and mainframe has specific needs and supports specific tasks in the business. When a software update takes a piece of hardware like this and makes it inoperable or forces the company to replace hardware to keep receiving support almost everyone in the exchange comes out worse for the wear. So does the environment.

When good business technology goes to the landfill, that’s less space actual e-waste can occupy.

And in that regard, it’s fair to say B2B software buyers need Right to Repair protection, too. Whatever regulatory protections are eventually afforded business software buyers, a motivated TPSM provider can help a company keep using its software purchases far into the future where they might otherwise simply not be able to. With any luck, Apple’s altered outlook and California’s passage of a truly consumer-friendly Right to Repair bill will be the foundation of a long-term change that will benefit companies purchasing technology as well.


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