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Michael Dell and the Curse of the Exploding Batteries

First his laptop, now his personal jet may belch fire

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Call it the curse of the exploding lithium ion battery.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Michael Dell, the man, or MSD Capital, his personal investment arm, is on the list to get a Boeing Dreamliner 787.

Perhaps Dell's MSD arm is just taking a piece of the investment action in the Dreamliner, the Journal speculates, or perhaps Dell will be using it for some purpose.

We can envision Michael Dell flying around the country Bob Roberts style, with a flying office like Air Force One gives POTUS (that's President of the United States), or maybe just using it to haul bales of cash down to New York to take Dell, the company, private with the help of Microsoft and Silver Lake Partners.

The 787 Dreamliner made its first commercial flight back in October 2011, and at the time Boeing had 821 planes on order. The Dreamliner can carry 250 people and was designed using the latest and greatest CAD and simulation software. The "plastic jet" is manufactured with carbon fiber and other composite materials to reduce the weight of the craft.

Recently the 787 electrical power backup systems, based on large lithium ion batteries, have caught fire in two cases and that has forced the grounding of the fifty planes that Boeing has shipped to customers so far. The cause of the battery overheating and fires is being investigated, and no conclusions have been drawn as yet. Perhaps a call to Round Rock is in order.

This may seem like a bit of déjà vu to Dell, the man, who has been burned by lithium ion batteries in the past. Well, not literally, but certainly financially. Back in December 2005, Dell issued a recall on lithium ion batteries used in a number of its laptops, and shortly thereafter there was a wave of exploding laptop battery stories, including one UK homeowner who claimed his Dell laptop set his living room on fire. In August 2006, as this wonderful picture in The Telegraph captures , Dell had to issue the largest recall in computer industry history because the batteries were still going pop-pop.

No one was injured by the Dell laptop battery fires, and thus far, no one has been injured on the Dreamliners, either. That's the good news.

Maybe Dell should take the train. Unless the train has lithium ion batteries. A Chevy Volt is absolutely out of the question for Dell. Perhaps he should just ride a bike. ®

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