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Dell laptops backlog caused by paint woes

Paint-job delays high-end Dell systems in US

Dell has told frustrated US customers that paint is to blame the long delays to the release of its top-of-the-line XPS M1330 laptops.

Alex Gruzen, a senior vice president in Dell's consumer products group, said on the Direct2Dell blog that the company has shipped only 10 percent of the backlogged orders for the laptop it has touted as "the world's thinnest 13.3in notebook", since its 26 June launch.

But it was a problem with painting the M1330 that Gruzen spent most of his post explaining. "The finish on the XPS M1330 is similar to a custom paint job on a car," he said, "but with one additional complexity - on a car, typical viewing occurs from several feet away. With a notebook, the typical viewing range is much closer... sometimes a foot or less. This requires a different level of attention to detail."

He went on to say that two of the three colour choices - red and white - require more coats of paint than the default black, and are therefore susceptible to dust contamination. In fact, Dell just dropped a white colour option, said Gruzen, because of quality control problems. "It takes about five coats of paint to get the appearance we were looking for," he said.

Gruzen also repeated what he and other Dell executives have said before, that backlit LED screens, an option on the M1330, represent another bottleneck. "This relatively limited supply base [of LED suppliers] combined with stronger-than-anticipated demand - the number of orders has simply exceeded our expectations - has contributed to the delays," said Gruzen.

"Currently, we have worked through about 10 percent of our backlog and will focus on improving this going forward," he added.

Although several customers commenting on Gruzen's post said they had received their M1330s, the general tone remained angry among buyers, or former buyers. "I ordered my black-cased m1330 in June and it was pushed back to late August, so the whole red-case cock and bull story doesn't gel at all," a customer identified as Ya Kathaab wrote today. "I cancelled last week."

Another buyer who said he cancelled his M1330 order actually thanked Dell for the delay. "The reason I want to thank Dell is because in the weeks it has taken them to build an M1330 for me, I went and got a MacBook, and I'd have to say I'm about 90 percent through the portal into MacWorld now," wrote a customer identified as Paul S. "So, thanks to Dell, I will never again see a 'Blue Screen of Death,' nor have to spend hours trying to figure out why some stupid application won't install or run in Windows.

"This is a valuable service Dell has performed for me. Thanks so much."

As of Tuesday, the estimated ship date for an XPS M1330 was pegged by Dell's online ordering system as 29 August. Pricing for the laptops starts at $1,299.


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