Typical. Absolutely, bloody typical.
No sooner do I write a posting praising the engineering excellence found in Panasonic notebooks, than the company offers to replace 6,000 of its laptop batteries citing fears they could overheat.
What's more it is not even a technical problem caused by designers playing with fire (sorry) and trying to squeeze too much power out of the batteries that has caused the problem. No, it is a common or garden design flaw whereby a latch on the battery case could break if the laptop received a knock. If a spring incorporated in this latch was then to fall inside the battery case alongside the lithium-ion battery the spring could be heated causing the case to be bent out of shape and damage the laptop.
In fairness to Panasonic (and myself) it is not the aforementioned Toughbook that has been affected, but rather 6,000 of its Let's Note CF-W4G models produced during April and May last year. Moreover, the models were only ever sold in Japan, which is great news for the rest of us, but less encouraging if you are reading this somewhere in Tokyo on a Let's Note laptop that you're pretty sure you bought early last summer.
Given the relatively low number of affected batteries - particularly when compared to the 4.1 million potentially short circuiting Sony batteries recalled by Dell and the further 1.8 million recalled by Apple – this is little more than a small embarrassment to Panasonic that should soon blow over.
However, there are still a couple of important lessons to be learnt. The first is that if as a vendor you are going to build your brand around engineering excellence then even one tiny mistake is going to get a lot of coverage. It's called schadenfreude and it's human nature.
The second is that even if a recall is small in size IT directors still need to be sure they do not have any affected machines - believe me staff are going to be pretty litigious if they end up with, erm, roasted nuts courtesy of an exploding corporate laptop that should have been recalled. That means IT departments need to have an up to date and well managed record of serial numbers and models for all their IT assets so that when these types of incidents occur they can react quickly and confidently.
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