RealTime IT News

Apple Recalls A Million Batteries

Apple Computer  became the latest company to announce a recall of over a million notebook computer batteries.

Like Dell last week, Apple announced a voluntary recall in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission of lithium ion battery packs made by Sony.

The Apple recall covers about 1.1 million battery packs in the U.S. and an additional 700,000 outside the U.S.

The Apple systems affected are 12-inch iBook G4, 12-inch PowerBook G4 and 15-inch PowerBook G4 notebooks sold from October 2003 to August of this year.

Consumers should remove the battery from the computer to view the model and serial numbers located on the bottom of the unit to see if it's a recall candidate.

Apple has set up a Web site with more information.

In the case of both Dell and Apple, Sony appears to be picking up the bulk of the cost associated with the recall.

In a statement, Sony said its support of both recalls will amount to a cost of between 20 billion and 30 billion yen (or about $172 to $258 million U.S. dollars).

Sony said the estimate is based on battery pack replacements and "any other costs to be incurred by Sony."

Apple said it had received nine reports of batteries overheating, including two reports of minor burns from handling overheated computers and other reports of "minor property damage.

The company said no serious injuries were reported.

Though there very few reports of problems by the millions of potentially affected notebook users dating back several years, the overheating did cause Dell considerable embarrassment when photos surfaced on the Internet of a Dell notebook in flames.

Sony said the problem is caused on the rare occasions when microscopic metal particles in the recalled battery cells come into contact with other parts of the battery cell, leading to a short circuit within the cell.

Typically, a battery pack will simply power off when a cell short circuit occurs. However, under certain rare conditions, an internal short circuit may lead to cell overheating and potentially flames.

The potential for this to occur can be affected by variations in the system configurations found in different notebook computers.

"The most immediate implication of this is that Sony has a bill they didn't have yesterday," Roger Kay, analyst with Endpoint Technology Associates, told internetnews.com.

"Apple will have out-of-pocket expenses and gets a bit of egg on its face and hit to its reputation."

But Kay also said the recall is an opportunity for both Dell and Apple to enhance their reputations if they do a good job.

"On the one hand, Dell took the worst hit by being first, but now that Apple having to recall it shows everyone that at it wasn't just Dell's problem," said Kay.

Sony said it has introduced several additional safeguards into its battery manufacturing process and believes it's addressed the overheating issue.

Whether any other notebook suppliers have battery problems that could lead to a recall remains to be seen.

Lenovo said last week that while no notebook is immune from failure the company has not seen any pattern of unusual problems.

"Our Power Manager software actively manages battery health, and is designed to disable the battery if an unsafe condition is identified," Lenovo said in a statement.

Consumers can also call (800) 275-2273 for more information about the recall.