Secret docs reveal Dell knew PCs were faulty
Welcome to a world of lawyers
Dell is in court accused of knowingly selling thousands of computers which it knew were likely to be faulty.
Documents seen by Ashlee Vance at the New York Times show Dell staff were aware that problems with capacitors from Nichicon were likely to hit at least 11.8 million OptiPlex machines shipped to customers between May 2003 and July 2005.
An internal review by Dell itself found that 97 per cent of the machines were likely to fail over three years. The problems got worse when Dell managed to replace the faulty motherboards with other faulty ones.
Staff were told not to warn customers proactively and to "emphasize the uncertainty", the NYT reports.
Complaints from the University of Texas were fended off by Dell staff blaming the university for overloading the machines with difficult maths problems. Even the law firm currently defending Dell got burned when the direct seller refused to fix 1,000 computers bought by the lawyers.
Dell, once the darling of the industry, has tried to put the problems behind it - settling this month with the SEC, and paying out $300m in 2005 for problems with the OptiPlex desktops at the centre of the current lawsuit.
Dell's model of tightly controlled inventory and Japanese "just-in-time" logistics was meant to provide a way to make a profit from turning out hardware and reduce the impact of this kind of failure.
The company lost its way in reacting to consumer demand and watched most of the rest of the industry mimic its supply chain.
Dell must now deal with a consumer lawsuit without sparking a larger class action case, or action from disappointed shareholders. ®
Hang on, what?
"Complaints from the University of Texas were fended off by Dell staff blaming the university for overloading the machines with difficult maths problems."
A computer that falls over when you throw math at it?
And I thought Jobs' excuses for the latest iToy were poor.
@ frank ly
My RiscPC (circa '95) is doing okay. The AMD box I use for stashing stuff recorded off the telly before I DVD-R it says "Built for Windows 98" on the front. Oh, and my Beeb (issue 7), circa... um... '82? '83? is marching on. Okay, every so often the PSU caps fail, but that's just the big-ass input smoother, the PSU can run without, and it isn't exactly unexpected after 26-28 years of service...
Two friggin' years. Hell no, they REALLY don't build 'em like they used to.
Unlike solid-state devices, most general purpose capacitors have a MTBF measured in '000s of hours (I've just looked at Maplin, and a so-called long-life electrolytic capacitor has a MTBF of 2000 hours).
Now this may seem like a long time, but with modern devices having always-on power supplies (identified by no physical switches) that contain electrolytic capacitors, then we are actually only talking 83 days being either on or on standby before you would expect a failure from this type of device. It's amazing they last so long.
When this type of capacitor was first invented, it was expected that any device would only be on for a few hours a day. But now we expect everything to come on at the touch of a remote control, everything is different.
I have talked to a Sky box specialist repairer (when my 1st gen Thompson Sky HD box failed due to capacitors in the power supply) and he said that these boxes were not expected to last more than about two years before failing. They sell hundreds of capacitor kits to repair this very fault. This explains why the after-market Sky insurance services are so prevalent.
The simple fact is that anything using cheap electrolytic capacitors must be expected to fail after a few years unless the manufacturer has made special efforts (such as using new technology solid-state capacitors). Unsurprisingly, this costs more money, and is unpopular for all but the most expensive devices.
As a sideline, all of the devices I have repaired by replacing the capacitors in the last year or so have all, without fail, had the failed devices branded as CapXon, who appear to make a significant number of the capacitors in electronic devices coming from China! Good thing everything is so cheap that it can be replaced.
Dell has basically sucked for over a decade, and now their own records confirm this and will condemn them to history's grave yard.
Shut the doors, and give the shareholders their money back.
The point of the article...
...as I see it at least, is to highlight that a rather large and well-known company wasn't just selling systems with these dodgy caps (as you say, there were a LOT of companies bitten by these electroleaky caps...), but that they were continuing to sell them even after they knew of the problem AND then did as little as possible to support their customers once their systems started falling over.
In contrast, I remember some other manufacturers (Abit for one - I was considering sending my KT7 back to them for repair, but ended up using the failure as an excuse to upgrade to a KD7 and a faster CPU...) at the time were quite open about the problem and were prepared to repair/replace faulty parts for the cost of the return postage.