Dell gives enterprises options in battery recall

Dell is giving large corporate customers options for how they can replace defective laptop batteries.

Dell has come up with several ways to help corporate customers replace defective laptop batteries that may have thousands of the dangerous batteries deployed all over their enterprises.

"We are working with customers to develop a plan that best suits their specific circumstances," said Anne Camden, a spokeswoman for Dell. "But we are constantly tweaking the plan."

Dell has been scrambling since Monday to implement a worldwide recall of 4.1 million batteries, included on laptops made between July 1, 2004 and July 18, 2006, because of the risk that the batteries may overheat and cause a fire. The computer maker announced the recall in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The batteries were made for Dell by Sony, which is shouldering some of the costs of the recall.

Dell is pursuing any one of three strategies to help corporate customers get replacement batteries, Camden said. For companies with a large dedicated IT staff, that staff will track down the affected laptops within the company, order the replacements and install them when they arrive from Dell. In other instances, Dell may set up and staff kiosks on the campus of a corporate customer to handle the recall.

But the third option may be the most likely: "In some cases, some larger corporate customers may just leave it to the end user," Camden said.

That is the approach being taken by Electronic Data Systems. The global enterprise technology service provider sells and maintains Dell computers for military, civilian government agencies and corporate customers, said spokesman Travis Jacobsen. EDS also uses Dell computers in its own organization.

If an enterprise has people in offices scattered around the country or the world, the simplest thing for them to do is have each employee go to Dell's Web site, www.dellbatteryprogram.com, determine if their battery is subject to the recall and apply online for a replacement to be sent to that field office, Jacobsen said.

For example, one of its military customers, a joint Navy Marine Corps Intranet contract, uses 45,000 Dell laptops subject to the recall, Jacobsen said. Shipment of new batteries will be expedited for military users "in forward command units where they really need their system to keep running," he said, while others may have to wait a couple of weeks.

EDS has service level agreements with enterprise customers defining the level of service EDS must provide for their Dell computers, or other brands for that matter. "We are not seeing any loss of productivity from our customers or violation of service-level agreements" due to the recall, Jacobsen said.

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