August 15, 2006, 5:48 PM — This week, it seems everyone is piling on Dell, taking it to task for recalling 1.4 million laptop batteries. Well, I will, too: Dell has pulled this stunt before. Not once. Not twice. But five other times in the last six years. Is anybody in charge?
Dell, of course, doesn't really manufacture anything. Like many other companies, it assembles finished products from parts it purchases from dozens of third-parties that build components to Dell's specifications. Dell --- nor any other computer vendor, for that matter --- builds processors, RAM chips, hard drives, power supplies, speakers, LCD panels, switches, keyboards, mice, and on and on.
In this particular instance, the onus is being laid upon Sony, the company that Dell contracted to furnish the batteries in question. Note that I said "furnish." At this time we don't know if Sony actually built the batteries or subcontracted the work to yet another company. Where the fault lies remains to be determined.
Finding the technical fault is one thing, and watching a laptop go up in flames on the Internet is another, but there is a more serious problem that goes beyond this week's recall.
This isn't Dell's first time.
Let's quote some press releases published by the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
August 14, 2006: "In cooperation with the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other regulatory agencies worldwide, Dell is today announcing the voluntary recall of approximately 4.1 million Dell-branded lithium-ion batteries with cells manufactured by Sony. Under rare conditions, it is possible for these batteries to overheat, which could cause a risk of fire."
December 16, 2005: "The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below [Dell], today announced a voluntary recall