Dell Has Something Important to Tell The Consumerist About Blazing Batteries

Seems our lil ol blog has finally raised the ire of Dell. A day that will go down in history. John Q. Pope, acting as media relator for Dell, wants to correct a post of ours, “Dell Battery Recall May Not End Explosions.”

Everyone is entitled to an opinion but they should not get in the way of facts. Dell does not design its products as you report. Dell, the acting head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and others are on record as saying the root cause of the battery issue is a Sony manufacturing issue — and not a Dell design issue. If that is not enough, then perhaps Apple’s recall today of 1.8 million Sony batteries will drive home reality. Speaking for Dell, we have worked very closely with Sony, are confident they have they rectified the problem, and we have every confidence in their batteries going forward.

Pope, thank you for reaching out. Now the niceties are out of the way… Dell doesn’t design its own products? Well then who does? Guess that’s one way to keep costs down.

Just kidding, we are deliberately misconstruing your comment for comedic effect.

But seriously, what then do you make of what a Sony spokesman says to Consumer Affairs at the bottom of this article? “”We believe the fire was caused by the combination of batteries and system architecture.”

Question mark.

Second Question. Beyond what others are saying, is Dell saying that architecture in no way contributed to the battery fires?

At Pope’s request, we’re extending a comments invite so perhaps we have a new comments participant.

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. JohnP at Dell says:

    Thanks, Ben, for the opportunity to participate in the conversation. I can only speak for Dell, and we’ve been as clear as we can on the root cause of the battery recall. The recent battery failures observed are related to the manufacture of the cells used in the affected batteries and are not related to Dell specifically. We’re confident that the manufacturing process at Sony has been changed to address this issue. For more info on the subject, check out our own lil ol blog at http://www.direct2dell.com/default.aspx

  2. So… Again…

    Are you officially stating for Dell that the “system architecture” is not at fault and Sony is lying in it’s claim?

    Or are you saying it COULD be part of the problem and you lied above when you said, “[the issues with the batteries are] not related to Dell specifically.”?

    Both can not be true. So which one is lying?

  3. JohnP at Dell says:

    I’ll leave the bait on the hook, thank you. Our statement is our battery recall is the result of a battery manufacturing problem that has since been addressed … it is not an issue specific to Dell … it is not a product design/system architecture issue. Lot more detail at: http://www.direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2006/08/22/2149

  4. yumyum says:

    Dude, if you need traffic that bad, why not buy some ads on The Consumerist? No need to threadjack.

  5. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Dell recalled about four times the number of laptops that Apple did, but the ratio of flamin’ Dells to flamin’ Apples in the news seems much higher than four to one, and they both use the same defective Sony cells. Going on my own wild assed guess, I’d say that system architecture is partly to blame for the higher proportion of flamin’ Dells.

  6. TPIRman says:

    In all fairness to JohnP — who I commend for requesting a comment invite and coming by to talk with us — I think his second comment answered the $64,000 question as clearly as we could reasonably ask. “[I]t is not a product design/system architecture issue” serves as a pretty cut-and-dry statement of Dell’s position on the matter. The Dell blog is even more adamant, which I imagine is why JohnP linked to it.

    We all were hoping for some intercorporate trash talk, but let’s be realistic. I’m not surprised that John would reject the “bait” and opt not to explicitly throw Sony under the bus. We’ll have to content ourselves to read between the lines.

    And yumyum, I think/hope you were kidding. It’s nice to see an enormous corporation interacting with some concerned customers on a human level. It’s what we’re always begging for (albeit what we deserve), after all.

  7. matto says:

    lol dude, you got a dell

  8. ExVee says:

    Well, it’s true; Except for the much higher end (read: $$$) systems, Dell does not design or build their own products anymore. It’s outsourced just like any other computer manufacturer. So yeah, they probably can’t help the batteries being in position to explode since they’re much less hands on with their stuff these days. Me? I’m an eMachines man, these days, with a side of HP. :)

  9. Ben Popken says:

    Frank writes:

    “Dell does not design their own laptops.
    Well, that is to say, that these days only 15-20% of the design is domestic in-house Dell. The rest is all done in Taiwan, by Quanta. There are a few others, like Compal (yes Compal, not Compaq), but Quanta is the power house that makes laptops for Dell, HP, Sony, and some IBM (I guess lenovo now). They had a write up in the Economist, sorry I don’t have the issue to quote. Quanta had a 6 story manufacturing facility, and entire assembly lines on caster wheels. Any line can be reconfigured to accommodate any design. If you go ahead and google Quanta laptop, many of the results include the phrase “World’s largest laptop manufacturer”, or the like. These trends explain some of the similarities in component desgn many technicians have seen a lot of recently. It used to be that almost every thing in a laptop was unique with the exception on the Hard Drive and Memory. Then the CD-ROM started being uniform, just slap a new face plate on to match the base plastics. Then the modem board and the addition on the mini pci for wifi. Now you can even find laptops from different name brands with the same motherboard, heat sink, touch pad, or keyboard. Most of the uniqueness is in the logos and the warranty. “

  10. ganzhimself says:

    I do believe that these battery issues are a combination of both poor battery design and poor laptop design. Look at the facts, people want something that is small, light, and fast. Take those expectations and add on the requirement for a long battery life. In the computer world speed = heat.

    To put it in perspective, try to imagine taking all the components from a desktop computer and stuffing them in a laptop case. Components in a desktop get hot, but there are fans and big heavy heat sinks that take care of that. In a laptop the same heat dissipation is not there. Oh, you get a nice little fan and some tiny heat sinks, but overall the thermal dissipation is much less than a desktop system. And of course heat + Lithium Ion battery cells = BOOM.

    How much R&D do you think a company like Dell does for their sub $500 laptops? Probably not a whole hell of a lot, so of you’re not only getting cheap parts that get hot, but you’re also getting a half assed power scheme where the power flow in and out of the battery isn’t properly regulated. So, you have hot components which are sitting right above a cheap, and poorly constructed battery cell that is prone to rupturing or catching fire.(Lithium Ion batteries have always been prone to this)Do the math, it’s simple. Spend more money designing a laptop that can dissipate heat away from the battery as well as a power scheme that uses the battery in a better way.

  11. If Dell outsourced the design and the design was part of the problem, then Dell is ultimally responsible.

    If a captain of a ship goes into battle and loses sailors, isn’t he ultimally responsible? If Dell outsources their help and it’s defective, isn’t Dell ultimally responsible since they made that decision to outsource to that company?

  12. Dell is a bunch of clowns hawking an awful, awful product.

    I’ve been sentenced to use a Latitude D610 for work and I was very disappointed to learn that my battery was not of the explosive variety. If only flame would consume this wretched piece of technology, my sanity might be saved.

  13. If Dell turns out not to be responsible because they outsourced the design work, then following the same logic, if I hire a contract killer to murder my wife, then I’m not responsible because I outsourced the work.

    To put it in non-illegial terms, Let us say I owned a restraurant and outsourced the work of cleaning up at night (which many places do). If the company that I hired left waste material in the dining room and people ended up getting sick from it, does that mean I’m not responsible because it was someone else who actually did it?

    If not, then I’m going to hire out my own “Piss in a public area” person. :)

  14. The Reviewer says:

    I am still of the camp that Sony blows, and this is totally Sony’s fault. Reguardless of who’s fault it really is, it is Sony’s fault. Hey Dell guy, you should jump on my Sony boycott, thier stuff breaks, or blows up, obviously, and you are getting the flack, for thier crappy product, move to someone else, anyone else. You would not have to be answering to basement dwelling bloggers, if you do.

  15. thrillhouse says:

    Sad to see fanboyism and a general need to bitch get in the way of writing a meaningful post. The Consumerist, once again, giving consumerism a bad name by spreading false information.


    And seriously, I know its cool to rip on Dell right now, but do some of you have a clue?

    ganzhimself – Did price have anything to do with those affected by the recall? no. A sub $500 lappy is off-the-shelf and has little or nothing in common with higher priced products. Also – a laptop is not comprised of desktop components, JSYK.

    segfault – 4.1 vs. 1.8 is more of a 2:1 ratio than 4:1, but who’s counting? Besides, that proportion is meaningless compared to the ratio of batteries sold vs. batteries recalled. Dell’s recall represents about 15% of those sold in that time period. I’m betting that with Apple’s much lower volumes, that 1.8 mil represents a pretty fair percentage of those sold – not that they will give you that figure. So what does that mean? Nothing. Because your entire arguement is bunk. Dell’s recall was across several product lines, some of which have very different layouts and designs. If it were a system architecture problem, they’d be recalling the product line, not the battery. If it were a system architecture problem, Sony would not take this lying down while footing the bill. If this were a system architecture problem there would be no Apple recall. But thats just my wild ass rant.

    Phillip M. Vector – Of course Dell holds some responsibility as they are the one’s selling the product to the end user. But if your restaurant’s meat supplier sold you meat for 2 years and 15% of it turned out to be contaminated and responsible for serious illnesses. then wouldn’t you go after the supplier? Sure, the customers would be going after you, the restauranture, but if you had any sense, you’d pass the buck to the real culprit.