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XPS M1330: What’s Going On?

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Since my last post, many of you
made it clear that you want us to share more details about what’s going on with
the XPS M1330. I want to
apologize for the frustration that these delays are causing you. I understand
that no amount of explanation is a substitute for shipping the system, but hope this helps address some of your concerns.

Right now, we
are focused on shipping as many systems as we can. Currently, we have worked
through about 10% of our backlog and will focus on improving this going
forward. Despite our best efforts, we may not be able to ship some orders
before the original estimated ship date we gave you. In those cases, Dell will
be contacting affected customers to let them know. Details will vary by region.

When
you order a system, the estimated ship date factors in our best currently available information, including the number of orders in front of you and the
availability of parts. It should not change unless something impacts one of
these factors. If that happens, we will contact you.

As
Lionel mentioned in an earlier post, we have found the production ramp more difficult than we expected—let me take a few minutes to
explain the process. Before we begin shipping products to customers, we build a
sizeable number of units to test our manufacturing process and to help flush
out any issues that may impact our ability to build in volume. These test
builds are a fraction of what we expect to build at full production. Once we
start building a larger number of units, we may see issues that pop up in only
one or two of them, but which require larger volumes to reveal themselves.  Since it’s hard to tell if the issue is an
isolated one or if it will affect a large number of units down the road, we
investigate each one thoroughly. When that happens, it slows our build process.  

One
example of this is the painting process. Right now, Tuxedo Black is the only
color that is consistently meeting our quality standards. That’s one reason why
some customers are getting their orders before others. The finish on the XPS  M1330 is similar to a custom paint job on a
car, 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.  Why do I bring that up? There
was no problem painting hundreds at a time. 
But as we increased the volume, otherwise manageable factors like dust
contamination caused our successful yields to decrease.  Adding to the complexity, the Crimson Red and
the Pearl White colors require more coats of paint and more touches to create
the finished product—that means there is more opportunity for dust
contamination.

All
this ultimately results in fewer finished parts from the paint line than we
expected.  You may have noticed on Dell.com
yesterday we discontinued the Pearl White color. The reason is that we are just
not able to produce the kind of volumes of high quality product that we need to
support demand. It takes about 5 coats of paint to get the appearance we were
looking for.
We are working to ship white units that meet our standards
to all customers who ordered them, but those may be the last of the units using
the current process, as we continue to pursue alternate methods of producing
high-quality white units.

Unanticipated
part shortages also hold up our ability to ship products. The most obvious
issue is one mentioned in earlier posts-the LED backlit LCD display. First off,
it’s new technology, and that means there are fewer suppliers available. Bright
white LEDs provide the backlight for the LCD instead of a fluorescent tube. It results in a brighter display that offers
better color reproduction, is thinner and lighter, and draws less power. This relatively limited supply base combined
with stronger than anticipated demand-the number of orders has simply exceeded
our expectations-has  contributed to the
delays. Our vendors are ramping
production as quickly as possible, but these displays continue to be in short
supply.

We’re
committed to shipping these systems as quickly as we can. Once again, I’d like
to take this opportunity to thank you for your business and your continued
patience.

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