January 10, 2001, 1:41 PM — IN THE WAKE of a fault discovered in Transmeta's 600MHz TM5600 Crusoe microprocessor, Sony said Friday it will offer replacement machines to any users in Japan that report problems. Sony, however, stopped short of following the lead of NEC, which on Thursday decided to recall all 284 notebook PCs it had shipped that featured the faulty chip.
"After an investigation yesterday, we came to the conclusion that in the Japanese market we have approximately 13,000 computers that use the affected CPUs," Ted Kanno, a spokesman for Sony, said Friday. "We have posted a notice on our Web site that says if there is a problem we will replace the computer."
The problem occurs, Kanno said, when users attempt to use a two-piece recovery CD-ROM disc set to restore the computer to the original configuration. When the second of the two CD-ROM discs is inserted into the computer, the operating system reinstall sometimes crashes with a "Stream Read Error" message.
"If you reboot and replace the second CD-ROM with the first one, the PC reboots and starts the reinstall process again and maybe the next time it works properly," Kanno said. Because users are not likely to customize their PCs to the level where they would want to use the recovery discs, and because it only affects some of the processors for some of the time, Sony decided not to issue a general recall notice but rather offer new machines on demand to customers if they wanted them, he added.
On Thursday, rival NEC announced a general recall of the 284 notebooks it had shipped in Japan containing the Crusoe processors from what is suspected to be a faulty batch of chips. A spokesman for that company said the fault appears to be related to the cache memory inside each of the microprocessors and is more likely a manufacturing fault in one batch of chips than a design flaw with the chip.
To date, Sony has received seven complaints from customers concerning the Vaio GT1 machine, which is sold in Japan only, Kanno said, adding that no complaints have been received regarding the Vaio C1, which has sold around 26,000 units in Japan -- more than 10 times that of the G1 -- and also is sold in overseas markets, including the United States.
"Basically, other markets will follow the stance taken in Tokyo," Kanno said, adding that a general recall has not been issued by Sony in other countries. "Business units will decide the course of action."
On Thursday, a representative for Sony's U.S. subsidiary said that there will be no recall in the United States, as the company had not received any complaints about the Vaio C1VN Picturebook notebook that features the 600MHz TM5600 Crusoe processor.