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Dell battery recall creates headaches for businesses

Corporations, like consumers, must wait on replacements

DALLAS -- Dell Inc.'s unprecedented recall of 4.1 million faulty laptop batteries is creating headaches for its corporate customers who have come to rely on notebook PCs as an indispensable part of doing business.

Information technology departments are faced with the prospect of testing -- and potentially having to swap out -- the batteries of hundreds or thousands of notebooks. If the batteries are affected by the recall, companies -- like consumers -- must wait for replacements to be shipped.

``This will be a time-consuming burden on the IT department," analyst Cindy Shaw of Moors & Cabot said yesterday.

Dell and the Consumer Product Safety Commission disclosed the agency's largest-ever electronics recall Monday. It covers about 14 percent of the Latitude, Inspiron, XPS, and Precision notebooks sold between April 1, 2004, and July 18, 2006.

The problem stems from battery cells supplied by Sony Corp. During production in Japan, tiny shards of metal that could cause short-circuits were left in the cells.

The recall was issued after six confirmed instances of overheating or fire involving Dell systems with batteries made by Sony. No injuries have been reported, and so far no other notebook makers have been affected.

Though corporations are set up to handle large deployments of new computer parts, the process of ordering and distributing new batteries could take several weeks, said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group research firm.

``They clearly haven't planned to do this," he said of companies. ``They have to figure out how many they need and how many they need where."

Corporations, which tend to buy computer systems in bulk quantities to save money, will have access to Dell's direct sales and support teams to help expedite the replacements, a company spokeswoman said.

But it will still take roughly 20 days for new batteries to arrive. As of yesterday afternoon, Dell had received 90,000 battery orders from companies and consumers.

Electronic Data Systems Corp., which has contracts to supply Dell laptops to the US Navy and other federal agencies, said it was still trying to get a fix on exactly how many computers were affected.

EDS spokesman Travis Jacobsen said so far 45,000 of 135,000 Dell laptops in the company's Navy Marine Corps Intranet contract have faulty batteries.

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