Dell Asia Pacific notebooks are flame-free

Posted on October 17, 2000 
Filed Under Julian, ZDNet

By Julian Matthews
17 October 2000

‘Flaming notebook’ harks back to Apple incident in 1995 also involving Lithium-Ion batteries.

KUALA LUMPUR — Dell Asia Pacific has confirmed that none of the notebooks shipped out of its two factories in Penang and China has faulty batteries that can cause units to burst into flames.

“None in Asia. Batteries shipped with our notebooks manufactured at our plants in Penang and Xiamen are not affected,” said Judy Low, spokesperson of Dell Asia Pacific.

She said the recall applies specifically to batteries sold with Dell notebooks shipped directly to customers in North, Central and South America from June 22 through September 15, 2000, and in Europe, the Middle East and Africa from June 22 through October 4, 2000.

Models that may be affected include the Latitude CPiA, CPiR, CPtC, CPtS, CPtV, CPxH and CPxJ, and Inspiron 3700 and 3800.

Dell Computer Corporation recalled 27,000 suspect batteries Friday after one US corporate customer reported a battery in a Dell notebook short-circuiting in a puff of smoke and catching fire. No one was injured in the incident.

A Dell spokesperson at the time said it was “not taking chances”, however, and that another incident would be “one too many”.

The faulty battery was pinpointed to be a Lithium-Ion rechargeable manufactured by the Sanyo Energy Corporation, a subsidiary of consumer electronics giant Sanyo Electric Co, and one of the biggest suppliers of batteries in the world.

Dell’s swift recall was probably to nip in the bud a public relations nightmare similar to one Apple Computer Corp faced in August 1995 with its new PowerBook 5300s. Also fitted with Lithium-Ion batteries, of an undetermined make, one notebook reportedly burst into flames at an Apple plant in Singapore.

Apple recalled the computers, some of which had already reached distribution channels, but not before the incident had become the butt of jokes of late-night talk shows and “flaming notebook” graphics graced the pages of computer periodicals.

Dell has set up a detailed support page on its Web site including instructions on how to properly drain battery power to a safe charge level of 40 percent or less, just in case.

“As part of the recall process, we are sending replacement batteries to customers with potentially affected batteries immediately at no charge,” said Low, adding that all affected customers had been notified.”

Not the first time

This is the second incident involving Dell notebooks this year with possible faulty components. In March, the Round Rock, Texas-based computer-maker volunteered to replace faulty Micron memory chips in its Latitude and Inspiron notebooks sold between February and November 1999, affecting possibly 400,000 units shipped globally.

Low said she could not disclose the number of Asia Pacific customers eventually affecterd in the previous incident “for competitive reasons”.

“What’s important is that we took action to address the issue promptly. All customers who contacted Dell for replacement of their memory, following the receipt of our letters with instructions on running the diagnostic utility, were address accordingly,” she said.

Dell’s Asia Pacific plants ship directly to 13 markets in the region and 26 countries via distribution.

Sales in Asia-Pacific, including Japan, for the second quarter ending July 28, 2000, rose 48 percent over the previous year’s quarter, including a 93 percent increase in revenue from enterprise products. Revenue for the last four quarters for the combined region of Asia Pacific and Japan amounted to US$2.2 billion.

Sanyo Energy has yet to issue a statement as of press time and its official Web site at sanyobatteries.net is down.

Published in ZDNet, Oct 17, 2000
Alternative link: No combustible Dell notebooks from Asian plants.
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Alien substance caused Dell notebook to ignite, Oct 23, 2000
By Julian Matthews, Malaysian correspondent

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