Director of Technical Inertia, Baka Industries Inc.
In a move related to last week’s announcement of free replacements for Apple’s original M5140 PowerBook AC adapters, Apple announced that, effective 01-Apr-95, it will provide replacement batteries at no cost to certain PowerBook owners. This announcement follows the discovery that the batteries do not continue to provide electrical power to the PowerBook following more than a couple of consecutive hours of use.
Reportedly, Apple has determined through extensive testing that, after a period ranging from one-and-a-half to four hours of typical use, the batteries shipped with the 100-series PowerBooks fail to keep the PowerBooks running. Symptoms of this failure range from the appearance of inconvenient dialog boxes to unexpected data loss when the PowerBook suddenly ceases to function.
Apple engineers claim that this behavior can be expected from standard battery technology, but the company’s public relations division felt that users were confused by the inconsistent supply of electricity from the batteries. "Users feel that a battery powered device simply ought to keep running," explained Jan Gesmar-Larsen, general manager of Apple Germany. When asked about the typical effective life of a standard Walkman battery, Larsen said, "That pink rabbit in the commercials just keeps on going, why can’t PowerBooks?"
Users who take advantage of this new customer satisfaction program will receive Apple’s new "FusionPower" PowerBook battery product in exchange for their old battery. Different FusionPower models are available for the PowerBook 100, PowerBook 140-180 models, 200-series PowerBook Duo models, and the current 500-series PowerBook models. Apple estimates that these power packs, based on a new hydrogen fusion technology, will provide the average user with 400 years of power on a PowerBook 100 or a Duo, and 750 years of power on other 100-series or any 500-series PowerBook. (Additional FusionPower batteries are available for 500-series PowerBook owners who wish to take advantage of the second battery compartment.)
Because of the nature of the technology, Apple says that only certain PowerBook users qualify for this free battery replacement program. Owners in the United States must first apply for a license with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and then send a notarized copy to Apple’s Customer Assistance Center along with a lead-lined shipping carton. Outside the U.S., Apple recommends that users contact CERN in Geneva, Switzerland for appropriate licensing information. In addition, Apple warns that the FusionPower batteries must be stored in their plastic carrying cases. "If one of these suckers shorts out on a paper clip in your briefcase," said Larsen, "we might have to evacuate the surrounding city."
Former Apple CEO John Sculley, an early tester of the FusionPower technology, was curiously unavailable for comment. A technical support representative at Apple’s 800/SOS-APPL facility in Austin, Texas, asked about the procedures for replacement, replied, "Are you sure your PowerBook 170 is still in warranty?"