Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Six Million notebook batteries at risk so far & counting

So many explosions in the news nowadays, even including computer parts and components.

Last week, it was Dell who announced that they would recall 4.1 million lithium-ion batteries for laptop computers, fearing that they could “over heat and catch fire”. It was the biggest safety recall in the history of computing.

Those batteries were manufactured by Sony, who also manufactures batteries for the latest victim of ‘battery-recall’: Apple.

This week, the typically reliable Apple, announced that it would recall 1.8 million laptop batteries.

These batteries featured in iBook and PowerBook computers sold from October 2003 to August 2006; and Apple have already received nine reports of overheating that caused minor burns or property damage.

Earlier this year, an iBook battery actually exploded in Japan!

The Apple iBook G4 overheated and caught fire in April. The user sustained minor burns. Apple and the Japenese government have confirmed the case.

It has triggered action by the Japanese government, which has ordered Apple's Japan branch to report on its findings regarding this battery problem and has put in place measures to prevent future troubles; if these issues are not settled by next week, Apple could face a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,570) under Japan's consumer safety laws. Not much money, but it’s a symbolic move!

Also, the Japanese government has decided to add Sony to its watch-list, as Sony itself makes notebook computers and should be under review just as Dell and Apple are.

One has to wonder how these manufacturers, renowned for quality control, have found themselves in such a mess!

The fact is that efforts to reduce costs and remain competitive have to, at some point, result in dangerous products!

This ‘explosive battery’ fiasco should open up a discussion regarding cheaply manufactured parts and it should put the spot light on big, and typically trusted, names like Sony, Dell and Apple.

Who knows who else will join the bandwagon in the coming weeks. After all, other notebook leaders like Acer and Toshiba probably follow the same manufacture procedures or have the same component suppliers!

It seems that government’s have not paid attention to this potential health hazard or do not have the procedures in place to test for it.

Protecting consumers cannot and should not be the sole responsibility of PC and battery manufacturers.

At this stage, it is advisable that every one of us checks with his/her notebook supplier regarding the source of the notebook battery we’ve got.

If it’s a Sony manufactured battery, you need to somehow contact Sony to see if it’s in the problematic batch, or was produced during the aforementioned period (late-2003 to mid-2006) which Apple have cited.

The chances of a notebook battery exploding are very slim. But, you can never be too safe, right?

(Published in The Star)


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