PC makers have recalled 9.6 million Sony-made notebook and laptop batteries so far this year for a rare but spectacular tendency to overheat and burst into flames. In money terms, the recalls cost Sony 51 billion yen (about $433 million). In reputation, though, the cost was higher: Sony's reputation for quality went up in flames.
And who at Sony decided to tough it out, letting one PC maker after another announce recalls over a period of weeks, instead of getting the bad news dealt with all at once? It turns out, according to Japanese newspapers, that Sony knew of the manufacturing defects in Dell batteries as long as a year ago, but didn't bother to inspect batteries made for other computer makers.
Adding to Sony's woes: Prototypes of the PlayStation 3 game console, scheduled to make its Japanese and American debut on Nov. 17, malfunctioned last month at the Tokyo Game Show, reportedly because of overheating. Not a good omen.