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Sony’s laptop battery problems spread further on Friday as computer makers Toshiba and Fujitsu said they would replace Sony-made lithium ion batteries used in their notebook PCs.
The move by two of Japan’s leading notebook manufacturers highlights the extent to which Sony’s battery problem has affected the global PC industry. Sony announced a worldwide replacement programme on Thursday for certain types of its batteries, regardless of notebook brand.
The escalation of the battery fiasco appeared to have been prompted by a malfunction earlier this month in a ThinkPad machine at Los Angeles International airport.
The battery failure happened as the machine was being carried aboard an aircraft, “causing enough smoke and sparking that a fire extinguisher was used to put it out,” according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The commission did not name the airport, but Lenovo, the world’s third-largest PC maker, had already said it was investigating a fire at the LA airport on September 16.
Lenovo, which makes the ThinkPad under its own and the IBM brand, is recalling batteries from 526,000 machines sold since February 2005. That makes it the third Sony battery recall, following Dell’s move to replace 4m batteries and Apple’s recall of 1.8m.
Toshiba said on Friday it would replace batteries used in 830,000 notebook PCs.
Last week, it said it was recalling 340,000 laptop batteries because of a flaw that made them vulnerable to failure, though it denied they could catch fire.
“Incidents due to overheating problems, such as those which led to the voluntary [battery] replacement by Dell and Apple Computer have not occurred with our PCs,” Toshiba said on Friday in a statement.
However, the group decided to replace the batteries in cooperation with Sony to reassure users of the safety of using the PCs.
Sony said more than ten companies would be affected by its replacement programme. The Japanese company would not comment on how much of the cost it would bear from the recall, but in earlier recalls it has shared some costs with manufacturers.
While it conceded that the battery failures reflect a manufacturing flaw in the battery cells it supplies to laptop makers, Sony also continues to maintain that the problem is at least partly caused by the laptops themselves.
The risk of fire “can be affected by variations in the system configurations found in different notebook computers,” it said.
Earlier this month, one person familiar with Sony’s own internal investigation of the problem said that, despite extensive testing, the company’s engineers had not been able to produce any battery failures themselves, suggesting that the cause may lie partly in the systems designs used rather than solely in the battery.