CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Culture

Commentary: Deja vu for Dell batteries

The company has handled the Inspiron battery recall well, but the recurrence of problems like this among PC vendors indicates a larger problem with quality that threatens the industry.

    By Mark Margevicius, Gartner Analyst

    Dell Computer has handled the Inspiron battery recall well, but the recurrence of problems like this among PC vendors indicates a larger problem with quality that threatens the industry.

    Dell deserves credit for quickly announcing the problem--and coming up with replacement solutions--before it had the opportunity to flare up into a major marketing and brand-image disaster. Moreover, Dell customers likely will find any recall inconvenience oddly rewarding since Dell offers a two-for-one exchange for a defective battery. (A company advisory offers information on which computers are covered, what to do with a recalled battery and how to reach Dell support.)

    This recall echoes one that Dell issued in October 2000 for its Latitude notebook computers, whose batteries could short-circuit and catch fire under certain circumstances. The difference this time is that the Inspiron notebooks target consumers rather than enterprises, as with the Latitude line. With this event, that is, Dell is recalling more than 10 times the number of computers it did in last October's recall. Furthermore, enterprise users are easy to identify and contact. Consumers are much more widely scattered and difficult to find.

    But Dell is not alone in issuing such recalls. Many companies in the PC industry have had to publicize problems with their products. Last week, for example, Compaq Computer alerted customers of its iPaq personal digital assistants (PDAs) to a problem with battery charging that puts data at risk.

    See news story:
    Faulty battery sparks Dell recall
    To date, the computer industry has mostly ignored problems such as this. However, Gartner first spotlighted an industry environment rife with quality and reliability problems in 1996, and Gartner's assessment is that things are getting worse. Proliferation of computing devices (such as laptops, PDAs and cell phones), device complexity, rapid turnover in designs, component shortages, competitive threats and low profit margins all contribute to compromises in product quality.

    Dell's battery woes may be just the latest quality misstep, but enterprises and consumers alike may grow to perceive the reliability and quality of the computer industry's products as chronically suspect.

    (For related commentary on maximizing laptop and cell phone battery life, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

    Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.