Google, HP Halt Chromebook 11 Sales - InformationWeek
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Google, HP Halt Chromebook 11 Sales

Eight complaints about charger failures lead to suspension of sales.

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Google's Chromebook business suffered a setback on Wednesday when Google and HP suspended sales of HP's Chromebook 11.

The companies took action "after receiving a small number of user reports that some chargers included with the device have been damaged due to overheating during use," said Caesar Sengupta, VP of product management, in a blog post.

Google declined to provide the number of HP Chromebooks that have been shipped to date. The company has not released any official sales figures for Chromebooks since the devices were introduced in 2011, despite reports from its growing stable of hardware partners that Chromebooks are selling well.

A source familiar with the investigation said eight separate reports of charger damage have been received, none of which have resulted in injury or the damage of other property. The chargers were made by a third-party supplier.

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According to Sengupta, Google and HP are working with the Consumer Product Safety Commision on an appropriate response, and the companies plan to provide more details when they can. Presumably, the companies will bring the Chromebook 11 back as soon as possible, so as not to miss out on the US holiday buying season.

Until then, Sengupta advises current HP Chromebook 11 owners not to use the charger that came with the laptop. He suggests using any Underwriters Laboratories-listed micro-USB charger with the notebook as an alternative.

Certain micro-USB chargers, however, put out too little power, which can result in an error message. One user in a Google Groups post notes that trying other micro-USB chargers led to this popup message: "Low power charger connected. Your Chromebook may not charge while it is on. Consider using the official charger."

This error message itself may be the result of inaccurate charger identification, as observed in a recent post to Chromium's issues forum. A response by Puneet Kumar, an engineer and co-founder at Google-owned chip maker Agnilux, suggests Chromebooks occasionally have trouble identifying the connected power supply. "The chip used to detect the power supply has known failure modes which make the whole detection logic about 90% accurate at best," Kumar wrote in his reply.

Google introduced the HP Chromebook 11 in early October, at a price of $279.

The sub-$300 laptop market has been a bright spot in an otherwise dreary PC market. Over the summer, Stephen Baker, an analyst with NPD Group, said that the market for laptops priced below $300 is expected to grow 10 percent in 2013. Baker said that Chromebooks represent between 20 percent and 25 percent of the under-$300 notebook market, a segment that accounts for about 15 percent to 20 percent of the overall US notebook market.

Google appears to be eager to take advantage of demand for affordably priced laptops. Over the summer, it tripled the number of retail partners offering Chromebooks, now over 6,600, by adding Wal-Mart and Staples to the mix.

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User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2013 | 12:15:36 AM
Always neglected until ....
Power supplies and batteries always seem to be technology's stepchildren – never given the attention they deserve. What an incredibly bad stroke of bad luck it was for this to happen right before the busiest buying season of they year, and I laud the wisdom of the decision makers for temporarily taking the product off the market and thereby avoiding a potential disaster. However daunting this problem in this vital subsystem turns out to be, battery chargers and the power systems of laptops can be dealt with separately from the rest of the device, which means the device itself will not have to be reengineered. But, Santa's going to have to shell out more for laptops this Christmas with Chromebook on hiatus.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 8:37:09 PM
Re: Pricing of the Chromebooks
While the price point is important to Google since the idea behind making these machines available is to get more as many people online as often as possible, it's certainly not "the whole reason" for buying Chromebooks. I got mine because it's a breeze to secure, maintain, exchange and update. I also don't think that this flaw, to whatever extent it's actually occurring, is necessarily the result of the price. As you indicate, much more expensive laptops have had similar problems. I'm guessing that the issue is more about the design of the charger being somewhat unconventional than "enormous pricing pressure."  
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 6:58:23 PM
Re: Good move
Yeah, it does seem they were very quick to come to this decision, hopefully not too premature.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2013 | 4:00:56 PM
Re: Pricing of the Chromebooks
There's more to Chromebooks than pricing. I heard that a security engineer at Twitter specifically sought out a Chromebook to take to a recent security conference because Mac and Windows laptops were too easy to hack. I've given Chromebooks to my kids because they're so much easier to take care of than traditional laptops (though things have improved since the pre-app store days when updates all had to be manually sought out, downloaded and installed).
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 2:49:02 PM
Pricing of the Chromebooks
The whole reason for buying Chromebooks is pricing, and that is how Google has long positioned them. That is, as inexpensive clients. So there has to be enormous pricing pressure on components, and occasionally things like this will happen.

What's less easy to explain are similar power problems in Macs and Dell machines, where the price premium should insure high-quality components through and through.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2013 | 1:55:46 PM
Re: Good move
Given how few reports about this have been received, Google and HP deserve credit for getting out ahead of what appears to be a relatively minor quality control issue at a supplier.
Tom Murphy
Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2013 | 1:18:05 PM
Good move
I actually think it's kind of refreshing to see HP and Google halt sales -- not an easy call to make.  One must assume that the product safety commission and the potential for an outright consumer revolt spurred the decision after engineers found no easy fix to the problem. 

We've seen so many miracles that we forget technology is incredibly complicated. But we also have seen many products launch with recharging issues.  It's good to see action taken quickly on this one. What else could they have done?
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 11:26:12 AM
A Real Head Scratcher
I would like to think that percentage of faulty chargers is very small, admittedly having no background in Quality Control, the first simplistic tactic that comes to mind is  - Let's plug this baby in and put her through her tricks, and see if there are any problems. Supposedly this was done and nothing turned up. Also surprising was HP's seemingly laissez faire attitude in suggesting to customers that any mini-usb charger as an alternative. A drawer full of chargers attests to my assumption that every device has its own dedicated charger now according to HP apparently not.
User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2013 | 11:17:39 AM
First hand news
I was not so optimistic about Chromebook earlier but when i saw it is taking up good hype and height, majorly with educational insitutes i had to believe my eyes, then it took some increase in last summer declining apple and windows sale.
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