Week in review: Sony strikes again

Batteries from the electronics giant spur another recall, this time from Apple. Plus: Sony buys into video sharing.

Apple Computer became the latest company to be burned by Sony's batteries, but the company is also feeling heat over its portable-music strategy.

Because of a risk of fire, Apple is recalling 1.8 million batteries that use Sony's battery cell technology, which also was at the root of Dell's historic recall last week. The Mac maker's recall, while not as large as Dell's, affects users of its iBook G4 and PowerBook G4 laptop models sold between October 2003 and August 2006. Users are advised to remove the batteries immediately and store them in a safe place. Batteries in Apple's recall Apple said it has gotten nine reports of batteries overheating, including two cases in which users reported minor burns and property damage. However, it says no serious injuries have been reported.

An Apple representative said the company does not expect the recall to have a material financial impact on the company. The total cost of the Dell and Apple recalls could fall between 20 billion and 30 billion yen, or $172 million to $258 million, Sony said in a statement.

CNET News.com readers again reacted with scorn for Sony, but one reader did manage to find a silver lining in the recall.

"Actually, I'm kind of glad they're recalling them," one reader wrote in News.com's TalkBack forum. "After 2+ years of use, laptop batteries tend to have lost some of their charge, and this way, I can get some new ones!"

Sony and PC makers scrambled to reassure customers that the latest battery recall involving Apple Computer would be the last. Of course, that's exactly the same thing they said last week after Dell announced its recall.

Just about every major PC company uses Sony's battery cells in at least some of the notebooks they offer. However, Sony believes the battery cell problems are confined to Dell and Apple, a Sony spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Apple agreed to pay Creative Technology $100 million to settle their legal dispute over music player patents. The $100 million grants Apple a license to a Creative patent for the hierarchical user interface used in that company's Zen music players.

After months of hinting that it would be coming after rival music player companies, Creative sued Apple in May, claiming that the iPod maker was infringing on its patents. A week later, Apple countersued, claiming that Creative was infringing on Apple patents for user interfaces. As a result of the settlement, all legal disputes between the two companies related to the patent will disappear.

But there may be more trouble for Apple's music strategy. After years of cranking out hit iPod models, some wonder whether Apple has hit a wall. The company hasn't had a significant update to its product line this year, with the only change being the addition of a smaller-capacity, 1GB iPod Nano in February.

Analysts suggest that the market may be at a point where the company's next area of focus is less clear. One possibility is digital radio. So-called HD Radio offers digital content but, unlike satellite radio, is freely available without a subscription. Apple has also indicated that it may be trying to find new ways of melding the iPod with the cell phone.

On the record
Broadband provider Qwest Communications International said it made a mistake when one of its lawyers endorsed federal legislation requiring Internet providers to keep records of customers' behavior. Jennifer Mardosz, Qwest's corporate counsel and chief privacy officer, said in an interview with CNET News.com that she misspoke during a panel discussion organized by the Progress & Freedom Foundation in Aspen, Colo.

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