Product recalls aren’t hugely common but are always an embarrassing PR event … and as recalls go, Sony’s one announced today is a pretty big deal. Over half a million Vaio laptops are at risk, it seems, of running hot enough to melt.
The actual issue is in the computer’s temperature control circuitry, according to Sony–there’s some design flaw in the system that prevents it from effectively cooling the CPU (and other hot-running parts) down enough. At some critical thermal moment, the temperature inside the computer rises high enough that the heat can actually soften the laptop’s plastic bodies. Distortion and thus erroneous performance, and a slight risk of skin-contact burns could then result. Sony’s quick to point out that no cases of injury have been reported, but it must be this serious risk (and attached lawsuit danger) that’s forcing the recall.
The product recall covers 259,000 laptops sold into the U.S. since January 2010, 103,000 in Europe, 120,000 in Asia, and 52,000 in Japan. As well as revealing interesting stats on who around the world is actually buying Sony gear, this totals to 535,000 laptops that Sony has to arrange get back from consumers, and either repair or replace. This is going to be a big logistical affair, although the company thinks it shouldn’t hurt its bottom line for this fiscal quarter.
While that’s good luck for Sony’s bank balance, it’s a big black mark PR-wise. Or is it? Because Apple’s iPhone 4 is also reportedly suffering from a big design flaw (or maybe it isn’t–some owners simply can’t reproduce the problem) that affects how well it can receive calls, which is pretty damning for a phone. But the apparent effect hasn’t been found serious enough for Apple to issue a recall. And yet parts of the media are literally baying for Apple’s blood over the matter … while Sony’s news, about a product that can physically wound buyers, is slipping under the radar, more or less.
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