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.
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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