Why it matters: What started with numerous complaints to the Apple Support forums and culminating with at least three class-action lawsuits and substantial media pressure, Cupertino is finally dealing with the problems that some users have been having with its MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards.

On Friday, Apple initiated a keyboard service program for MacBook and MacBook Pro users. The service coverage includes several models from 2015 up to 2017. A full list of eligible MacBooks includes:

  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12­-inch, Early 2016)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, 2017)
  • MacBook Pro (13­-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2016)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2017)

The program is looking to fix issues attributed to the butterfly mechanisms on those keyboards. Problems manifest as sticky keys, repeating characters, and keystrokes not appearing. Users that have any of the above models exhibiting any of the keyboard problems listed can take or send their MacBook to Apple or an authorized service provider to have it repaired or replaced for free.

This service initiative covers devices for up to four years after purchase. So eligible models bought in 2015 will fall off the program next year on the anniversary of their purchase. Apple makes clear on its support page that this program is not an extension of the standard warranty.

According to an internal document obtained by MacRumors, even keyboards that have been serviced by a third-party repair facility are eligible under the program. This stipulation would seem to be a direct response to at least one of the lawsuits that claimed Apple was refusing to repair keyboards that had been serviced by unauthorized dealers. It also noted that keyboards with liquid damage would be disqualified from the program.

Wait times for repairs can vary widely. Apple says that the turnaround time is typically five to seven business days for "off-site repair centers." Users may be able to get same-day service at a local Apple Store, but ultimately times for repair are going to depend on how large an influx the program generates.

"I just had my 2016 MacBook Pro in for service and it came back with the 2017-style keyboard, and it feels very different. Not as loud, a bit mushier, but not in a bad way."

Users that have previously paid to have their keyboards repaired may be eligible for a refund and should contact Apple Support to request one.

Whether the company is just repairing or replacing the butterfly keyboard with upgraded components is uncertain. There is some suggestion that it is using the 2017 model's keyboard as a replacement as it has been reported to have fewer issues and seems to have "a different feel to it."

It is also unclear at this time whether the program satisfies any of the lawsuits against the company in part or in whole. However, the timing of the program certainly falls in line with SAP (standard Apple procedure), which usually involves the creation of such repair initiatives after sustained media coverage and threat of lawsuit.