Dell: Paint problems plague portables

Poor, poor Dell. The embattled company has been working to right the ship’s course for a few months now but it seems like no matter what the execs do, they can’t quite seem to stop the SS Dell from springing leaks. During the past few months, the Round Rock, Texas company has found itself in hot water over a $150 million accounting scandal, jettisoned its line of PDAs and canned its CEO. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the company’s customers either, recently, Dell laptops started seeing shipping delays, especially the company’s new M1330 ultraportable and its heavily advertised line of colorful Inspirons.

Could things possibly get any worse? You had better believe it. The company has finally come clean about the shipping delays and from the looks of it, things aren’t going to be improving anytime soon. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company has been experiencing “dust contamination” problems in its laptop lid painting process, due to an “increased production volume.” “Dell said it had no issues painting hundreds of notebooks at a time, but when it increased the volume, dust contamination got in the way,” the Journal reports. Apparently some colors are experiencing more problems than others (which explains the longer delays for specific colors) due to the number of coats of paint needed and the company has gone so far as to completely discontinue at least one color (“Pearl White”).

Furthermore, Dell is having difficulty obtaining the LED-backlit LCD panels used in some high-end laptops. “Our vendors are ramping production as quickly as possible, but these displays continue to be in short supply,” said Alex Gruzen, head of Dell’s consumer-product group. The LCD shortage has been blamed on Asian manufacturers and other OEMs also appear to be effected by the shortage as well (Apple’s LED-backlit 15.4″ MacBook Pro, for example, is also currently experiencing shipping delays).

These manufacturing problems couldn’t come at a worse time for Dell: with the back-to-school season in full swing, the company stands to lose a significant number of portable customers to other vendors like HP, Toshiba, Sony and Apple. Dell was certainly successful in generating consumer demand through their “Colors” ad campaign; unfortunately, it looks like the company may have inadvertently triggered a consumer backlash too. 

For more on Dell’s colorful woes:
– see this Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.)
– or this eWeek article

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