Monday, August 28, 2006

Fiasco?

I'm a little torn about the current slate of battery recalls that Dell (and now Apple) have announced. Even though on the surface it looks like a QC issue for the companies themselves, I think it might be more of an opportunity - and so far Apple is doing a slightly better job of managing it.

Here's why. In the modern world, everything is made by a subcontractor - and Sony is the subcontractor that made the LiIon cells that turned out to have metal contamination (which is why they're being recalled - metal could lead to a short in the battery cell). Apple clearly stated that Sony made the batteries in question (passing the buck, but it works), and made a simple procedure for exchange. They are promising long delivery times, though, which could be a problem if they come true. When my MacBook Pro battery was recalled a month ago (not for safety, though), I had a replacement on-hand in two days. If they can come close to that on the new recall, it's probably a net win for Apple from a customer service perspective.

In Dell's case, they had their recall announced on the heels of a slew of bad news. It also took them a while to get the recall up to speed, though now they have a simpler method of determining whether a battery is affected - a basic chart of numbers and a picture guide of how to look it up on the battery pack. Dell sells many more models than Apple, so they have a much wider array of possibly affected models and don't bother looking for a Mac serial number to help determine whether a computer is affected.

Ultimately, if both companies (and any others who use Sony LiIon cells) can simply get the batteries replaced fast, it'll be no more than a minor bump on the road for them. Sony, on the other hand, really can't afford this embarassment right now (with the PS3 launch looming), and could be taking a big hit from this.

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