Microsoft, iFixit Want Entrepreneurs to Give New Life to Old Gadgets

The companies hope to spur a small-business repair economy and prevent devices from ending up in landfills.

Microsoft and iFixit repair program

Microsoft and iFixit, an electronics repair Website and parts store, have teamed up on a new program, called the Pro Tech Network. The goal is to help make disposable electronics a thing of the past.

The free program offers resources on starting or growing a small business that repairs smartphones, tablets and computers. "Written by iFixit and sponsored by Microsoft, the Pro Tech Network collaboration ensures up-to-date business methods and repair documentation will be free and accessible, even as technology continues to change," Jeff Snyder, director of marketing for iFixit, wrote in an Aug. 7 blog post.

Apart from iFixit's free knowledge base, the program offers startup guidance, business model development and financing opportunities. The companies also hope that the program is not only the beginnings of a new community, but that it paves the way for a new repair economy.

"And since it's a collaborative platform, repair techs will be able to share their knowledge and learn not just from us, but also from each other," wrote Snyder. "The Pro Tech Network is a resource built for repair businesses, by repair businesses—that will spur on the repair industry as a whole."

Extending the useful life of devices provides more than an economic benefit for entrepreneurs that are adept with their hands. It's good for the planet, too, said Josh Henretig, head of Environmental Sustainability for Microsoft.

"Some studies have suggested that you would need to use a tablet or phone for tens of years before the usage footprint was larger than the manufacturing footprint," he said in a Microsoft Green Blog post. "With this in mind, anything that can be done to extend the life of these smaller, low-power devices can have a positive environmental benefit."

Pro Tech Network is backed by Microsoft's Registered Refurbisher Program. "By sponsoring this repair business toolkit, we hope that some of the visitors may see this as an opportunity to create a green business for themselves, for their neighborhood, and for the planet," he stated.

Microsoft has a history of supporting green causes and enacting environmentally-friendly policies.

The company announced in June that it had been named a founding member of R2 Leaders, along with Sony America, Xerox and Goodwill Industries. The group combats e-waste with certification aims to keep used gadgets and PCs out of landfills by promoting and adhering to the R2 Standard, a stringent responsible recycling certification. "This reflects Microsoft's commitment to support the development of standards for better reuse and recycling of electronic devices around the world," said Henretig at the time.

On March 7, Microsoft revealed that its hardware and packaging supply chain had been certified ISO 14001-compliant. The nod from the international standards body "provides our customers and other stakeholders with the objective assurance that Microsoft is responsibly managing the environmental impacts of our hardware and packaging products and enhances Microsoft's reputation as a preferred business partner," stated Henretig.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...