Bad Batteries Plague Computer Manufacturers

By: marticles

Recalls by computer giants Dell and Apple underscore the notion that cheap overseas products don’t always mean reliable cheap overseas products. In the world of computer manufacturers, Dell was on fire. Literally. A host of its notebook computer batteries – 4.1 million of them – supplied by electronics giant Sony were being recalled. Laptops had overheated and a few actually caught fire. The batteries were labeled as the suspected arsonists.

Apple Computer followed suit not long after, recalling 1.8 million batteries for its popular iBook G4 and Power book G4 laptops. Sony also manufactured Apple’s recalled batteries.

Both companies were quick to create an exchange program for consumers and set up special web sites to help owners of the defective batteries to assess whether or not their batteries needed to be returned. Since the announcement, Dell has had 130 million hits to its web site.

The cause of the defect was addressed directly on Sony’s web site.

"The recall arises because, on rare occasions, microscopic metal particles in the recalled battery cells may come into contact with other parts of the battery cell, leading to a short circuit within the cell," stated the company’s press release. "Typically, a battery pack will simply power off when a cell short circuit occurs. However, under certain rare conditions, an internal short circuit may lead to cell overheating and potentially flames. The potential for this to occur can be affected by variations in the system configurations found in different notebook computers.

"Sony has introduced a number of additional safeguards into its battery manufacturing process to address this condition and to provide a greater level of safety and security. We believe the issue has been addressed to the satisfaction of our customers."

Sony officials estimate that for the company to support the replacement programs at Dell and Apple, the company, one of Japan’s most successful electronics manufacturers, will lose between $170 million and $260 million, or between 20-30 billion yen.

Neither of the computer manufacturers expects to have dips in quarterly earnings as a result of the recalls. In fact, the proactive nature of the recalls should boost the public’s confidence in the companies.
It has been a tough couple of months for Apple, however, as it had to recall hundreds of its Mac Book Pro laptop batteries as well. Just a few months earlier, Apple also issued another Power book/iBook recall over a different issue.

Apple representatives declined to comment on how much the recalls have cost the company to date.

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