Sony issues warning on Vaio Fit 11A fire risk

New technology, old problems. Late last week, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Sony’s new Vaio Fit 11A 11-inch convertible laptop/tablet could catch fire. The news comes as Sony is in the midst of transferring its Vaio business to a new company set up by Japan Industrial Partners in order to concentrate on smartphones and tablets.

Sony Singapore has advised Fit 11A owners whose laptops have serial numbers SVF11N18CGB and SVF11N18CGP to immediately stop using their laptops, because the non-removable batteries may overheat and catch fire. The  Journal noted that nearly 26,000 Vaio Fit 11A laptops are affected, including 3,600 in Japan, 2,000 in China and 7,000 in the rest of Asia Pacific.

A statement on Sony’s support pages in various regions asks users to “immediately discontinue use, shut down and unplug the PC”. The company said it is putting in place a programme to address the issue, either by repairing or replacing the affected PCs at no charge, or possibly refunding the purchase price for the affected PCs. Details will be available within two weeks, Sony said.

Sony is no stranger to overheating problems. In 2006, batteries supplied by the company to various computer makers had to be recalled. Another recall occurred in 2008. In 2010, Sony recalled laptops which could be deformed because of overheating.

In the past it was easy enough to remove the battery from the laptop and continue using it plugged to the AC adapter, but a tablet version does not have a removable battery. With the laptop often a user’s primary machine; discontinuing use of the Fit 11A is the same as not being able to work at all, especially when Fit 11A users were likely also using the machine as a tablet, and would not have a spare tablet on hand.

Such failures tend to shake user confidence in a brand. In a best case scenario, affected Fit 11A users will switch to a different model in the Vaio series, funding the replacement through either selling the repaired Fit 11A, or through the refund for the Fit 11A from Sony. In the worst case, they will switch to another laptop brand completely, and not look back.