Laptop lunacy adds new IS headache

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about…

That has to be the sentiment of many a harried IT manager upon hearing the news that a number of laptop manufacturers are these days issuing recalls of their products over fears of battery malfunctions. These malfunctions have been proven to pose serious fire risks in some models. The problems affect battery packs that are made by Sony and contain Lithium ion cells.

Included in the list of vendors is Dell, which this month upped the total number of batteries it is recalling by 100,000, from 4.1 million to 4.2 million units, and Apple, which has recalled 1.8 million batteries.

Sony reacted to the problem by offering up a battery-replacement program in which laptop manufacturers can send back any Sony-made battery for another, presumably less-dangerous one.

That spurred Toshiba and Lenovo to return some of their batteries, even though no problems have been detected on their models. The moves were simply attempts to put customers’ minds at ease over the safety of their offerings. Fujitsu was expected to follow suit.

The entire situation seems to have generated a new and somewhat unexpected headache for those charged with maintaining a sound-running IT operation. While contending with the problems posed by malware, spam, overloaded servers, constrained IT budgets and a host of other afflictions, he or she is now called upon to deal with faulty laptop batteries, of all things. It used to be that IS personnel had only to deal with end-user complaints that the darn things didn’t last long enough, or that they made the machines too heavy. Never was it thought possible that they could potentially start a fire.

And because they can, many new questions are starting to be asked. What exactly is being done to fix the problem with the batteries? Just what is the problem with them, anyway? Are we going to be able to trust the next ones with which we outfit our staff members? Are mobile workers who are now accustomed to taking their work with them on planes going to be able to do so in the future? Airlines could become reluctant to allow affected laptops on their planes, meaning the face of business travel will be forced to adopt a completely new look.

Hopefully the problem is close to being played out with the Sony recall. If not, this new and highly unwelcome IT headache could be with us for a very long time.

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