The recall stems from at least six reported incidents of Dell laptops catching on fire seemingly spontaneously. There have been various photos and stories circulating since mid-June and a web search should turn up various hits.
Most all major PC makers have suffered issues with laptop batteries requiring a recall, but to put in perspective the magnitude of the recall, the last two battery recalls Dell has had to make were 22,000 in December of 2005 and 284,000 in May of 2001. Looking at its competitors, Apple's last two battery recalls were 128,000 and 28,000 in May of 2005 and August of 2004, respectively. Earlier this year HP recalled about 15,700 batteries and in October 2004 had a recall of 135,000 batteries.
So who is the culprit here?
Dell is in the process of launching a website and support network to help direct information to the multitiude of affected. As of this posting, the site is not up yet but early reports indicate the URL will be: http://www.dellbatteryprogram.com (you can of course also visit the main www.dell.com website and navigate to support). The toll-free hotline number is slated to be: 1-866-342-0011.
The recall is for 4.1 million in a batch of 22 million laptops shipped during the time period in question.
This will certainly send ripples of scrutiny and concern towards both Dell and Sony, and though the financial bottom line for the companies may not be materially affected, the effect on that ever-important intangible, consumer goodwill, may far outweigh expense concerns.