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Dell, Sony Discussed Battery Problem 10 Months Ago 111

Posted by Zonk
from the boom dept.
InfoWorldMike writes "Dell and Sony knew about and discussed manufacturing problems with Sony-made Lithium-Ion batteries as long as ten months ago, but held off on issuing a recall until those flaws were clearly linked to catastrophic failures causing those batteries to catch fire, a Sony Electronics spokesman said Friday. Spokesman Rick Clancy said the companies had conversations in October 2005 and again in February 2006. As a result of those conversations, Sony made changes to its manufacturing process to minimize the presence and size of the particles in its batteries. However, the company did not recall batteries that it thought might contain the particles because it wasn't clear that they were dangerous, Clancy said. Dell spokeswoman Anne Camden declined to comment on the conversations with Sony in October and February, but told InfoWorld that Dell was 'confident that the manufacturing process at Sony has been changed to address this issue. Now our focus is erring on the side of caution to ensure no more incidents occur.'"
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Dell, Sony Discussed Battery Problem 10 Months Ago

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  • by atarione (601740) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @05:49AM (#15939695)
    but the laptop with the response plan on it burst into flames.
  • by pimpimpim (811140) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @05:58AM (#15939713)
    Otherwise, why would they ever start to examine these things close enough to find out there were small particles in it.

    Furthermore, I don't think they were talking about just malfunctioning of the batch of batteries, because I guess general malfunctioning was not an issue with these batteries. Otherwise the batteries that exploded would have already been returned to Dell before they could even get the chance to explode. Or where these all brand new batteries that exploded? And how many stories are there about malfunctioning batteries on Dells, except for the exploding ones?

    • by Alchemar (720449)
      The fact that they have noticed particles is not any indication of dangerous. I work in a lab for the plastics industry. We take several samples a day and examine them under microscopes and electron microscopes. Were not talking computer parts or implants, were talking bottles, bags, and "tuperware" like containers. We don't do this because they might be dangerous, but to prevent or prove financial liability. If we have a contaminate in are product and it isn't discovered until after serveral hundred t
  • Sony! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:02AM (#15939720)
    When it comes to electronics, I have been one of the people holding SONY in very hight esteem. But the behavior of the company with its music, and problems with quality in its devices, have dented my approval. What is going on at SONY? Now there is this battery thing...I think it's time to look at other players in the business. SAMSUNG to me, looks very promising. No wonder SONY's market share has been diminishing since the early 90s.
    • Hah!! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vistic (556838) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @07:48AM (#15939917)
      Why on Earth would you hold Sony products in high esteem? I could understand that thinking back in the 1980s... but since the 90s came Sony has always had poor-quality problems except in their professional gear. There's nothing "high-end" or quality about them.

      Personally I think it's because they've stopped manufacturing their things in Japan. Now it's all about Malaysia or Indonesia or Taiwan or China or something.

      Check where things are manufactured, it can tell you a lot about what level quality to expect. Different countries have different cultures and different governments and different labor laws and quality assurance programs and work ethics and wages, etc.

      Then again I also can't believe you're starting to think Samsung is looking good. They've improved a lot, thanks to improvements in South Korea itself, but they're still kind of crap and have a long way to go. South Korea used to be one of the WORST countries in as far as quality manufacturing goes, but they've done a lot in the past 5 years or so to try and fix things.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I agree wholeheartedly.

        Ask any TV repair professional; back about 1990 when the Sony TVs started saying "Made in Mexico", the quality dropped like a stone.
        • Re:Hah!! (Score:4, Informative)

          by Abreu (173023) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:45AM (#15940457)
          Sony TVs "made in Mexico" were only assembled in Mexico, from low quality chinese components... The blame lies in China, not across the Rio Grande.
          • by Gwwfps (912993)
            I would think that the only blame lies in Japan with Sony.
            • I agree. I have seen several instances where, for example, a particular TO-220 package would fail which had never failed in previous televisions. Of course, the previous models included a heat sink for the part in question (I forget what it was now...), and the new models did not. The current passing through the device was borderline on "must-have-heatsink" territory according the manufacturer's data sheet. Basically, if you didn't have completely optimal airflow inside your TV, and a low ambient temperatur
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pheede (37918)
        I don't know enough about the quality of Sony products in general to agree or disagree with your comment. But I find it just a little bit funny, that the two Dell batteries I have, which are part of this recall, were both manufactured in Japan.
      • Then again I also can't believe you're starting to think Samsung is looking good. They've improved a lot, thanks to improvements in South Korea itself, but they're still kind of crap and have a long way to go. South Korea used to be one of the WORST countries in as far as quality manufacturing goes, but they've done a lot in the past 5 years or so to try and fix things.

        See, I just do not understand that. I just got three boxes full of hundred dollar bills from Korea and the quality seems very good. I pl

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pete6677 (681676)
        Agred. Sony has been living off their name for the better part of 20 years now. What successful and truly innovative product have they really had since the CD? Charging more money while steadily degrading quality and useability is a recipe for short term success but long term failure. In fact I am surprised they're still doing as well as they are.

        Once the PS3 ends up being the disaster that everyone thinks it will be, they will file Chpt. 11, or whatever they call that kind of Bankruptcy in Japan.
        • Actually Sony didn't invent the CD. Phillips did. Sony had a little input here and there, but Phillips made that. Sony is in the buisness of planned obsolence. Plain and simple. Your toy break in 2-3 years guess what? You end up buying a new one.
      • by psymastr (684406)
        Country of manufacturing has nothing to do with quality. 90% of computer hardware is manufactured in Taiwan, all brands included, from Asus to ECS.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Quino (613400)
          Exactly; with mass production quality comes from design (of the product, manufacturing processes), quality control, etc. and not the ethnicity of the people pressing buttons of the manufacturing equipment.

          It made me laugh when I heard, for instance, that there were concerns about Toyotas made in the US (could they possibly be of the same quality as Toyotas made in Japan?). It seemed naive, as one of the key points about mass production is making products out of identical, interchangable, parts and taking t
          • by vistic (556838)

            Exactly; with mass production quality comes from design (of the product, manufacturing processes), quality control, etc. and not the ethnicity of the people pressing buttons of the manufacturing equipment. [...] People still show surprise that quality stuff can come out of Korea (again, I'm not sure what the rationale is, makes me wonder how certain people view the world ). Japan, early in its industrialization, was also synonymous with cheap low quality crap that'd fall apart if you looked at it funny or t

            • by Quino (613400)

              Your point about Japan also seems to contradict your other point. On one hand you seem to believe that any country can produce a quality product if they're given the blueprint and the proper tools. On the other hand you seem to recognize that at one time Japan's quality sucked but then it got really good. (Which is well known... I mean, it was even a joke in one of the Back to the Future movies).


              It's not a contradiction -- but you are still thinking along the same lines that I think are erroneous. To stick
      • Check where things are manufactured, it can tell you a lot about what level quality to expect. Different countries have different cultures and different governments and different labor laws and quality assurance programs and work ethics and wages, etc.

        It's not the people or culture, it's the company.
        Manufacturing in lower cost countries is part of cutting costs, which also tends to include reductions in the quality of incoming materials, reduced training, less stringent outgoing quality control, etc. Fail

        • by vistic (556838)
          what the....?

          Was that a real Sony ad? Where was it aired?
          • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

            by zilym (3470)
            Yes, I'm pretty sure that was a real ad. I think I remember seeing it on TV several years ago, here in the US. Although, it may not have been exactly the same version, I don't remember the ending screen spelling out that caucasions are too damn tall in big black and white letters like that. I think at the time I had just bought a Sony Vaio laptop and thought the ad was clever. Of course, after the one year warranty ended and every part imaginable started breaking on that Sony laptop, I think otherwise now.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by RotHorseKid (239899)
            The Ad comes from the 1990 movie Crazy People [imdb.com], starring Daryl Hannah.
    • by psymastr (684406)
      Why the hell do you write companies' names in all caps?
    • by tcgroat (666085)
      What is going on at SONY?


      It's simple, sad, and unfortunately not unusual. Akio Morita [wikipedia.org] suffered a stroke, stepped down as chairman, and died a few years later. The suits took over. Without its visionary founder, another proud and vibrant company sank into mediocrity.

  • Direct Cause (Score:5, Interesting)

    by staticneuron (975073) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:13AM (#15939737)
    Was it that hard to find a direct cause for this? I would have imagined they would create a stress test to replicate these real-life situations in whitch the labtops caught on fire.
    • by Minwee (522556)
      Well, the chief cause of laptops exploding is mispellings.
      • by Rudolf (43885)
        Well, the chief cause of laptops exploding is mispellings.

        It's misspellings. Or were you trying to be clever by spelling it wrong?

  • by sincewhen (640526) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:14AM (#15939741)
    A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:58AM (#15939824)
      If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

      Are you saying Sony execs watch porn instead of working?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kjart (941720)

      A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

      I know what you're paraphrasing and it does apply, but I have to ask, so what? Of course an equation like this is going to be used and research is going to be done. If a single catastrophic failure occurs, do you recall all 10,000,000 of your product? How about after 10? 100? There will always be freak occurences where horrendous events happen in unexpected ways - you have to figure out whether it's just that or part of a

      • by kfg (145172) *
        I know what you're paraphrasing. . .

        The Ford Pinto case, which proved the equation actually works.

        KFG
      • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:02AM (#15940305) Homepage Journal
        Speaking of which, I'm curious about how many incidents of battery fires have actually been reported. I'm aware of the famous one obviously, but how many others have been reported? Is this actually a case where dozens/hundreds of batteries are bursting into flame, or merely a case of one hugely publiscized incident? I wouldn't be surprised if Dell was issuing the recall to save face after the huge publicity of that one fire, even if the incidences dont merit it.


        According to the original CNN story [cnn.com] that was broadcast/published when the story broke, Sony's Rick Clancy had told the AP that about "a half-dozen or so fires in the United States" had occurred, causing Dell and Sony to study the problem for "more than a month." That's on top of the highly-publicised fire in Japan. Of course, 10 months is more than a month, right?

        But the manufacturing defect that's causing the problem would obviously cause such problems. In TFA, a Dan Doughty from Sandia National Labratories describes the condition that occured -- metal flakes causing a short between the anode and cathode -- as causing the battery to discharge ALL of it's energy at once. Now, if you have a laptop manual handy, read the part about where it says how many Watt hours (WHr) the battery holds. A Dell Inspiron 8500 has a 72 WHr battery.

        We know that by definition a Watt is the amount of joules/second. So, a 1 Watt hr = 3600 Joules per energy. Now doing the math (3600 * 72) we get 259,200 joules of energy in that Inspiron battery. Keep in mind that there is other heat around the battery as well. Now discharge those 259,200 joules all at once with all that heat around it. Putting that in perspective, a firecracker only discharges about 3900 joules of energy, while a 100g stick of dynamite discharges about 400,000 joules.

        <sarcasm> But no, I'm sure they had no idea. </sarcasm>

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          s/joules per energy/joules per second
          • I think you meant s/joules per energy/joules

            1 Watt hr is measurement of energy (not power)
            = 1 joule/sec * 3600 sec = 3600 joules.

            Watt is a measurement of power = energy/time
      • There were outbursts here demanding Nokia recall one of their phone models after it burst into flames and hurt a young girls hand. Nokia refused and said they'd investigate instead, which caused some minor outrage about how they put income over safety.

        Then it turned out that people were buying 3rd party batteries in the models that exploded, all bought at the same place. 6 phones exploded, each with a non-Nokia battery.
    • by GMontag (42283)
      Seems something has changed in the Japanese firms since I graduated college 12 years ago, or nothing changed and we were fed a big load of crap.

      The notion that Japanese firms *never* do what you describe was drummed into our heads, Soviet propoganda style. The only firms accused of doing this were American firms, but the American firms were learning their lessons and coming around.

      Odd thing was, the business instructors and professors with a business background did quite little of this while the ones with
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      at least give credit!

      "A new car built by my company leave somewhere traveling at 60 miles per hour. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field (A) multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B) then multiply the result by the average out of court settlement (C). A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of the recall, we don't do one."

      -- Tyler Durden, Fight Clu
    • by dangermouse (2242)
      The first rule of Fight Club is seriously, will you people shut the hell up about Fight Club already? Jesus, you're almost as bad as the Ben Franklin and 1984 people. You're practically Trekkies.
    • by lullabud (679893)
      My thoughts exactly.

      Narrator: A new computer built by my company leaves the factory. The the battery blows up. The computer burns up with all your data trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of batteries in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.
      Business woman on plane: Are there a lot of these kinds of accidents?
      Narrator:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:16AM (#15939747)


    Dell - The best Bang for your buck !!

  • Story? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:18AM (#15939749) Homepage Journal
    Um, what exactly is the story here? They talked about and researched the issue before issuing a recall. I have a feeling that could be said about every recall... pretty much every business action that occurs. Seldom are the dart or "mouse with ink on it's feet" methods used anymore. They were alerted to the problem, got confirmation and addressed the problem.

    So what exactly is the story?

    --
    Evan

    • by Snover (469130)
      The story here is that they knew that their batteries were defective and had the potential for damage or loss of life but they didn't do anything about it when they found out.

      "A times B times C equals X. If X is less that the cost of a recall, we don't do one."
      • by blixco (28719)
        Prove it.

        They met with regards to a defect, not with regards to destruction of property.
      • Re:Story? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @09:15AM (#15940137) Homepage

        "The story here is that they knew that their batteries were defective"

        Define "defective".

        Never mind, I'll read the article and do it for you.

        "Discussions were about the problem of small metal particles that had contaminated Lithium-Ion battery cells manufactured by Sony, causing batteries to fail and, in some cases, overheat."

        They were aware that some batteries could fail. "Fail" and "In some cases, overheat", do not mean "OHMYGODALLTHEBATTERIESAREGOINGTOKILLPEOPLE!" It means "There is a problem with the batteries and we should look at them."

        Unless of course you think that that clearly means they were dangerous.

        "[...] the company did not recall batteries that it thought might contain the particles because it wasn't clear that they were dangerous. [...] "We didn't have confirmation of incidents [involving fires] until relatively recently.""

        The story here is that they knew the batteries were defective, investigated what was happening, and did something about it when they found out what was happening. Look closely at your, sorry, Chuck Palahniuk's equation. When you have no reason to believe that B or C are any greater than zero, then X equals zero. It doesn't take a genius to figure that part out.

        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by Snover (469130)
          You can read well, but your critical thinking is not so good.

          Dell is reported to have known about incidents of laptops overheating, albeit in small numbers, for years. It and CPSC recalled 22,000 laptop batteries in December, 2005, because of overheating problems. Metal particle contamination was the cause behind that recall, as well, said Scott Wolfson, a CPSC spokesman.

          Dell knew full well what would most likely result from this problem, because the exact same thing had happened before.

          • by ctr2sprt (574731)

            No, it's not the exact same thing, because the batteries are different. It may be that some battery designs - even in the same general family (e.g. 9-cell Li-Ion) - are more tolerant of this sort of contamination than others. It may also be that Sony redesigned their batteries after the last recall to make them more tolerant of metal particle contamination, or changed their manufacturing process to make any such contamination less likely to be "critical." Hell, maybe Dell even started redesigning their l

            • by Snover (469130)
              Now, granted, I am not a battery specialist and so can't tell you the probability of an overheating battery catching fire, but I do know that most Li-Ion batteries have overload and short-circuit protection built-in, and I'd reckon that such circuitry is supposed to prevent the sort of overheating issues that Sony reported. (I could be totally off-base, but it's what I'm basing my comment on.) Wouldn't it stand to reason that if Sony was able to reproduce incidences of these batteries overheating that they
            • Not by safety concerns, that is for sure. For marketing concerns, perhaps.

              Just think about it: From an economic point of view, would anyone in their right mind invest $400,000,000 to prevent a couple dozen small fires? Absolutely not.

              This recall is a tremendous waste of money brought about by the ridiculous American tort system.
      • by spideyct (250045)
        But they DID do something about it when they found out, and confirmed the potential impact: they issued the largest electronics recall in US history.

        Now, considering Dell only purchased a small portion of the faulty run of Sony batteries, you might consider the lack of action from all of the other notebook manufacturers an interesting story.
  • Well then what were they waiting for?

    perhaps for a terrorist bomb in the form a laptop battery, so that they can hide their mishandling

    of issue for 10 whole months.

    Thank god terrorists are not /.ers :p

  • by Zocalo (252965) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:23AM (#15939755) Homepage
    That's pure crap. Why else would they have registered the "dellbatteryprogram.com" domain name back on 10th November of last year if they didn't think that a recall was going to be required? You might also notice from the WHOIS information that they are not hosting the domain on their own DNS servers like they do with their other domains. I think it far more likely that they had their discussions with Sony, but decided not to risk a PR disaster by performing a complete recall unless failures made it absolutely necessary to do so.

    My company made the decision to dump Dell just before this latest fiasco broke. Between regular failures of wireless modules in the D600 laptops, having to replace the motherboards of every one of GX270 desktops (OK, not really Dell's fault that one, but it's their badge up front for management to see) and totally abysmal support we've had enough. From their recent earning reports, I guess we're not alone in that.

    • by sharkey (16670) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @07:19AM (#15939855)
      IIRC, Dell had a battery recall in December 2005 for a different issue.
    • Domain names cost something like $8/yr., if you don't get a subsidized rate for buying some other service.

      Setting up a web site isn't that hard to do or that expensive compared to the cost of a million batteries which they weren't sure had a real risk of problems.

      If they thought they had a risk of fires, which would have been a MASSIVE PR blow, I think they would have just done the recall right then.
    • by DrDitto (962751)
      I had wireless problems with my D600, but the newest Intel ProSet driver solves most of those.
    • I work with Dell hardware every day as part of my job. [The company I work for is about 99% Dell-centric when it comes to desktops and laptops.] As such, I have had to deal with a lot of Dell issues in the past, such as the GX270 motherboard problem (we haven't quite gotten to swapping out all of the system boards, but it's been a fair number), and the previous recalls of batteries from Dell. In the previous recall, it was the C600/C610 notebooks that were affected, not their current generation of system
  • by NexFlamma (919608) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:26AM (#15939762) Homepage
    IANAL, and I'm really curious about this: How much evidence would be necessary to convict them on something akin to endangering the public by releasing notebooks that they knew could combust in a literal fireball?

    I'm really hoping there is at least some legal protocol to protect consumer's from things like this that are rushed out the door at the (potential) expense of people's lives, other than class action suits.
    • by LindseyJ (983603)
      Why do you need a legal protocol other than a class-action suit? Those are bad enough, from a business standpoint. When everyone and their mother who even knew somebody that knew somebody with a Dell and requires some payment for the 'psychological anxiety' they went through worrying about poor third-cousin Jim and his exploding laptop.

      I might agree with having some other recource for these consumers if the limitations on class-actions weren't a total joke.
      • by arodland (127775)
        Oh yes, because what everyone really wants is $3.98, or a coupon for $10 off a Dell branded MP3 player.
      • by NexFlamma (919608)
        And if someone dies?

        I think there should be some jail time involved for someone if their purposeful negligence causes a death.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by blixco (28719)
      You would "only" have to prove negligence, that Dell willfully ignored data pointing to batteries that catch fire. They'd have to have documented that somewhere along the line, someone emailed someone else with orders to go ahead and sell the batteries despite the danger.

      You won't find that evidence. Dell didn't know that the things would catch fire because they don't test as well as they should. Their own incompetence would protect them from such a suit.

      That doesn't mean it won't be tried. Dell is sued
  • by Wansu (846) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:26AM (#15939763)


    I suppose SONY and Dell either forgot all the lawsuits in the 60s and 70s stemming from TV sets burning down houses or they just didn't think the same kind of thing could happen to them. They will pay a hefty price.

  • Are we sure that these explosions aren't caused by a new rootkit installed by infected Sony batteries? They detonate when detected.
  • "Let's not do anything untill people realise it could kill them.... KACHING!"
  • A new laptop built by my company is turned on during a plane flight and used to edit documents. The laptop battery explodes. The plane crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside.

    Now, should we initiate a recall?

    Take the number of laptops in the field (A) multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B) then multiply the result by the average out of court settlement (C). A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of the recall, we don't do one.
    • Oh great, and then the guy with the laptop gets called a terrorist, and then we must dispose of our batteries before getting onto any domestic flight. They will sell power on the plane for AC adapters, and when we get off, they will sell us new batteries. It was a conspiracy between Dell and Sony and the plane companies, but the whole liquid thing threw them off, and decided to just do a recall instead.
    • 1:"Are there a lot of these kinds of accidents?" 2:"You wouldn't believe." 1:"Which computer company did you say you worked for?" 2:"A major one."
  • You have to wonder what they thought might be causing the few laptops that did ignite to go up in smoke.. On the one hand, you have charred batteries, which you know have a huge energy density and caustic, chain-reaction, chemistry.

    And on the other? Pixie dust? Maybe the numlock-indicator-led was the supposed root cause of exploding, erm, batteries rather than the batteries themselves?

    I'd love to hear their theories..
    • by LindseyJ (983603)

      You have to wonder what they thought might be causing the few laptops that did ignite to go up in smoke.. On the one hand, you have charred batteries, which you know have a huge energy density and caustic, chain-reaction, chemistry.

      Did it occur to you that maybe they were trying to acertain exactly what was wrong with the batteries? I don't know about you, but I use all sorts of batteries every day, and none of them are in the habit of exploding in a ball of fire. So I imagine that these people know that

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by blixco (28719)
      Failure analysis is a pretty well established science, and when every failure leads to a lawsuit, the analysis is done with a very specific intent.

      In this case, Dell will be able to point at Sony as the cause of the problem, unless Sony can produce a demand by Dell for cheap batteries that used inferior design.

      Now so far as the science behind exploding batteries, it is hinted at that the battery cells were filled with an inferior product. The particles that carried the charge were too large, which allowed
  • Airliners could start carrying good-sized, insulated, tightly-sealing bags that a flaming laptop could be tossed into and sealed. Haven't heard that the battery fires produce their own oxygen, so the fire oughta be extinguished once the O2 in the bag is used up. Then the whole thing can be disposed of like a flight-sickness bag... (and yes, I've heard of halfbakery.com)
    • by KarmaMB84 (743001)
      That is if the explosion doesn't blow the bag open :O
    • Could I have a bag to throw my burning laptop in? Quickly?

      A fire extinguisher would be much more fun. Neither would likely be effective.

    • by tcgroat (666085)
      It's not O2, but there is oxidizing material in the battery. Chemical batteries use redox reactions to deliver electric current. All the material needed to start the thermal run-away are sealed inside the cell: reducer (fuel) on one electrode, oxidizer on the other. Cutting off outside oxygen won't stop the battery's thermal run-away, it will only prevent other material (such as the plastic laptop case) from burning too. Because the case material is a poor fuel (safety regulations such as CSA/EN/UL 60950 re
  • I worked at Dell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blixco (28719) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @08:43AM (#15940055) Homepage
    for six years, and the one thing you, as a consumer, have to know about Dell (and possibly companies like it) is that there are two forces that drive their decisions: money and litigation. Dell has cut cost to the bone, not just in their supply chain but throughout their enterprise. Every dime is scrutinized, every step planned to the Nth to determine if the cost / benefit hits a sweet spot. The main driver behind product launches is schedule, and not quality. With the right schedule, Dell can be to the market at a price that makes profit.

    If there are problems with the equipment, those problems are weighed against the overall cost they contain. If Dell determined that their notebooks blew up, they'd have to weigh the odds, the cost of litigation, and the cost of bad press versus the cost of fixing the problem.

    The only bad thing about this way of thinking from a business perspective is that economy overrides lesson learned. Dell has had battery recalls more than a few times in the past, and this latest may cement the idea with people that Dell = exploding batteries. But rather than proactively develop test plans and more rigorous standards for their suppliers, they simply look at the bottom line.

    Ultimately this has served them well from a cash perspective, but this past year has seen a lot of their karma catch up with them; their process (which is King at Dell) has run out of wiggle room for cost cutting, and bad press like this (combined with the cost to replace those batteries) may start to chip away at their altar of the almighty dollar.

    You'd be amazed, though, how myopic quarter to quarter thinking makes a corporation.
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmai l . c om> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:14AM (#15940341) Homepage
      I worked at Dell for six years, and the one thing you, as a consumer, have to know about Dell (and possibly companies like it) is that there are two forces that drive their decisions: money and litigation.

      No news there - it's the same at pretty much any other corporation.
       
       
      If there are problems with the equipment, those problems are weighed against the overall cost they contain. If Dell determined that their notebooks blew up, they'd have to weigh the odds, the cost of litigation, and the cost of bad press versus the cost of fixing the problem.

      Again, the same as at virtually every other manufacturer, from baby food to SUV's.
      • by blixco (28719)
        Exactly.

        So....uh....hrm. How's the weather?
      • by macjim (856503)
        To point the obvious, not the same as almost any other manufacturer, because Dell makes its profits and gained its market position from aggressively cheap pricing. While they have plenty to lose from defective products, manufacturers who sell premium products on a promise of better quality have a great deal more to lose, and are more likely to take swift action to avoid damage to their reputation for quality.
    • by dfghjk (711126)
      "If Dell determined that their notebooks blew up, they'd have to weigh the odds, the cost of litigation, and the cost of bad press versus the cost of fixing the problem."

      If Dell determines that their notebooks blew up they wouldn't have to weigh anything. The cost of such a defective product would be obviously prohibitive and the product would never make out of system test in the first place.

      If the problem were less obvious then what you say makes sense. You credit management with being far more capable a
    • "You'd be amazed, though, how myopic quarter to quarter thinking makes a corporation."

      Yes, the Y2K problem is another example of this. Even in 1998, many major software companies still completely ignored the implications of only using two digits for notation of years.
  • by d3am0n (664505)
    Actually being one of Dell's employee's, I'm pretty glad we're doing the recall and doing it with a proper easy to use setup. It takes awhile to setup the recall process cause it has to actually be outsourced to a special company that creates the websites, handles the logistics etc. You can't just announce recalling 4.1 million batteries overnight without a plan. Ontop of that I do have to give abit of hats off to my employers since these batteries are in like a shite-load of other companies products, bu
    • by d3am0n (664505)
      That reminds me, I really gotta start posting about stuff other than Dell. It's my weekend, why am I thinking about work :p
      • by blixco (28719)
        Because you're a Dell employee. Until I left that job, I was my job.
        • by d3am0n (664505)
          Yea, I think it's cause I'm actually happy there vs the rest of my jobs. I was doing security work in college and stuck without human contact for 12 hours a night with just me and my laptop for like 2 years on weekends, and studying my butt off on weekdays. It's sorta nice having a boss who'll come down and play foozeball with you on break.
  • Maybe they thought they could avoid the recall by using the Sony backdoor to disable the defective batteries. :-)

  • by PoitNarf (160194) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:32AM (#15940405)
    I'm sure there are plenty that were in my situation. Large organization, many Dell Latitude laptops, and many users that probably won't check the part # on their batteries to see if it's included in the recall. I included the following lines to an inventory script we run on all the computers on our Windows domain to collect hardware information which is stored in a SQL database. It is able to get the battery manufacturer and part # from the BIOS. Here's the code for all who are interested:

    strComputer = "."
    Set objWMIService = GetObject("winmgmts:" _
    & "{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\" & strComputer & "\root\cimv2")

    Set colItems = objWMIService.ExecQuery("Select * from Win32_PortableBattery")

    For Each objItem in colItems
    Wscript.Echo "Manufacturer: " & objItem.Manufacturer
    Wscript.Echo "Name: " & objItem.Name
    Next
    • by Adam9 (93947)
      At Miami [muohio.edu], we used Altiris [altiris.com] to produce a report of all notebooks matching the serial numbers from Dell's battery recall site. It's a bit more reliable than asking everyone to look at their battery.
  • Sony discussed with Dell if it was possible to get rootkit onto the system via the battery.
  • Wow. Sony just keeps digging and digging and digging....
  • Sony clearly has the best interests of the end-user in mind.

    Not.

    Apparently the root kit was only the inflamed skin over the pustule.
    Lance that boil and get rid of it.
  • Chalk up another marketing disaster for the fine folks of Sony.

    Seriously, anybody watching from the boardroom? It is almost like they are starting to collapse under their own weight.

  • I have a Dell notebook with a Sony lithium ion battery that I bought in 2004. Apparently, it's not part of the recall. Should I be concerned?
    • Yes. Yes you should.

      You should immediately dispose of that notebook and go buy one from Apple. In fact, everybody with a Dell product--whether it has a battery or not--should immediately throw it out and replace it with an Apple computer.

      Why, yes, I do own Apple stock? Why do you ask? :^)

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