Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather when news was leaked on the New York Times and Gizmodo sites yesterday that Dell Computers has finally admitted what industry insiders had long suspected. According to recently unsealed court documents, Dell executives revealed that the company knowingly sold thousands of faulty motherboards with defective capacitors in their OptiPlex desktops that they knew would eventually explode, leaking their contents onto the boards and requiring immediate repair or replacement. According to the testimony, Dell estimated the failure rate at a whopping 97.7%. To those of us in the field, that number seems about right. I know of several businesses that went through their OptiPlex computers like the stuff that goes through a goose. No sooner would a replacement motherboard come in, then another workstation would fail. It wasn't beyond the realm of possibilities that a board would fail, be replaced and then fail again. By the time it failed a second or even a third time, the original warranty by Dell would expire, leaving the owner of the business with the no-brainer of ditching the OptiPlex and getting another workstation in its place. Sometimes, they would figure they had just had bad luck; they had been stuck with a lemon. Others who were a bit more knowledgeable knew that something else was afoot there. In only a few cases did the owners of affected OptiPlex workstations ever decide to abandon the brand. Dell was great at marketing the fact they had very affordable machines and could get shipments out very quickly. For most businesses, cheap and fast was what they were looking for and if they were smart and paid for the three-year gold service contracts, the failures were easier to swallow. During complaint calls it was disclosed that Dell would replace the entire computer if two motherboards failed within a 30-day period. It struck me as odd at the time that a company like Dell would put that policy into place. Now, with 20-20 hindsight, it makes sense. They fully expected the great majority of motherboards to fail and so they needed something to assuage singed customer relations between their company and the employees who suffered the most in the shortest time. I would assume that Dell reasoned if they could keep ahead of the failure curve in terms of the one year warranty period most people opted for, they would come out ahead. Most disgusted buyers purchased another computer rather than repair the problematic one. I admit to having purchased Dell computers for clients still, but the failure rate on motherboards today is much, much lower than it was five years ago. Of course, for those of you who are familiar with the latest Dell promotion for their cute and colorful line of laptops, the quartet of Dell assembly line workers singing "Lollipop" may spring to mind. But beware. In case you forgot the other common name for a lollipop...it's a sucker!