Dell’s Concept Luna is an amazing project. Using modular design, it promises to lower electronic waste for the high-volume laptop market. But while it focuses on creating a greener platform, the benefits of modular design go well beyond saving the environment. People will more aggressively support the related effort when it has additional personal benefits. While some will go down the sustainability path if it is hard, far more will go down it if it is both easier and better for them than the alternative. Concept Luna has the potential to be both easier and better.
Let’s explore some of the compelling personal benefits for a highly modular PC design.
Laptops come in distinct size classes that can better fit how your needs may change during the day. For instance, if you are traveling, a laptop that is in the thirteen-inch or smaller class will work better on a plane where space is tight, and it will also give you longer battery life if you are away from a power source. But a seventeen-inch or larger laptop will be better if you are mostly working from a desk, cubical, or from your dining room table while watching your kids or pets. Few people would buy several laptops for each use-case. We tend to pick what we think will work the best most of the time and suffer with the lack of what we might otherwise prefer when our working conditions change.
But with a modular design like Concept Luna, we could have the core components that move from different cases and screen sizes for less than buying a new laptop. For example, say we like to game or occasionally need extra performance and are willing to sacrifice battery life to get there. We could also have different internal components for gaming or workstation use that allow us to adjust the laptop’s performance based on our changing needs. You could have a Qualcomm module when you need extreme battery life for instance, and an AMD module for when you need extreme performance.
Another aspect of having different internal modules is the ability to upgrade the laptop to a recent technology. It often seems like when we buy a new laptop, within weeks the chip companies announce an innovative technology we may find compelling, making us regret not waiting. But a modular design should both allow the vendor to provide a trade-in incentive for your old module and a compelling upgrade price for a new one. This would allow you to upgrade to the latest wireless technology, the latest processor, or GPU technology as those technologies change and even swap out the battery, sound system, or other components (like screens) as the technology changes. On that last we may not be able to afford an OLED screen initially but, in a year, maybe we could buy the better screen we can afford and would prefer.
Over a decade ago, there were automotive paint shops that did a decent business custom painting desktop and laptop PCs. But by using adhesives, OEMS made it harder to take laptops apart so they could be custom painted. Companies like Toast came in to fill the gap with laptop wraps. But a modular design makes it far easier to custom paint laptop cases so you could have the image you like on your laptop, be it your company’s logo, your favorite sports team, performing artist, superhero, or fantasy character (I used to do dragons). And you can have the case repainted as the finish ages to keep the product looking new long after wear and tear would make the case look old. And, finally, it would enable third-party case designs that use unique materials like automotive carbon fiber, titanium, or even precious metals as your taste and finances allow. And, with the obvious exception of precious metals, those mods will make it less likely your laptop will be easily stolen because it would be unique and less interesting to the market at large.
A modular laptop design like Concept Luna promises a significant advantage when it comes to preserving the environment by lowering the costs related to recycling it. But it has other compelling advantages that would allow you to avoid premature obsolescence, have greater work and performance flexibility, and even allow a level of customization that has not been seen in this market, including low volume cases like the desktop gaming market enjoys. Concept Luna could drive a change in the PC market that would forever transform it into something more green, interesting, and popular than it is now. I can hardly wait.