Debates about gadget repairability come down to one thing: design. Users want more access to the devices they use, but manufacturers say they can't make the slim, sleek, perfectly formed devices people like while also making them easy to take apart and upgrade. In recent years, Dell has been working with Intel to trying to find a way to have it all, and landed on a design concept it calls Luna.
For now, Luna is just a concept, and Dell said it's a decade-long project. But it comes with some interesting ideas: A Luna-based laptop would require no screwdrivers to take out the screen or the keyboard, instead using easily removable anchors to keep things in place. (The prototype device has a tenth as many screws as your average laptop.) It would also have a smaller motherboard, and uses a different process to form the chassis, both of which could improve the device's climate impact. Dell even redesigned and reorganized the computer's internals so that it can cool passively, meaning it wouldn't need a fan at all. In all, Dell said Luna could help reduce each device's carbon footprint by up to 50%.
Many of Dell's ideas — more sustainable manufacturing, more ways to quickly take the thing apart and put it back together — are similar to those from devices like the Framework Laptop, which was also explicitly designed with repairability in mind. The industry as a whole has begun to push toward letting users fix and upgrade their devices: Even Apple, a longtime stalwart against all things right-to-repair, has made its products easier to get inside. As the FTC and other state and federal regulators start to enact and enforce right-to-repair rules, companies everywhere are going to have to get on board fast.
Of course, there's much more to making a long-lasting gadget than making the battery easy to replace. Dell will have to work on building its network of capable repair shops, making parts easier to access, documenting the processes and figuring out what to do with all the unused bits that come back. But as Framework CEO Nirav Patel told Protocol earlier this year, sustainability and longevity are increasingly part of consumers' purchasing decisions. "We see it in apparel, we see it in consumer packaged goods, we see it in food," he said. "A ton of companies are being incredibly successful, legitimately solving for environmentally damaging things that their industries are doing." Dell, like some others, is trying hard to stay ahead of that trend.