New Dell Delays on Laptop Shipments

A week after adding its budget-priced Inspiron laptops to the list of delayed systems, Dell blamed paint problems for the logjam, the same explanation it used almost a month ago for shipping snafus with the top-of-the-line XPS M1330 laptop.

In a post to the Direct2Dell blog on Friday, Dell's digital media manager, Lionel Menchaca, repeated what another executive had said in early August about the higher-priced XPS.

"I know that many of you have seen the blog posts about the XPS M1330 delays, but many customers are asking for details behind the Inspiron delays," said Menchaca. "Color options are the main source of delay on Inspiron notebooks. Basic colors like black are easier to produce. Premium colors and finishes like we use on the Inspiron models introduce complexity into the process, and that's holding things up."

The Inspiron 1720, 1721, 1520, 1521 and 1420 models -- all launched in late June along with the M1330 -- can be ordered in eight hues, including basic black or white, as well as brown, red, blue, green, pink or yellow. Dell has tagged the line with the marketing slogan "Yours is Here."

"Producing smaller quantities is not the issue -- it's mainly an issue of scale," Menchaca said, echoing what Senior Vice President Alex Gruzen said about the XPS laptop three weeks ago. "We'll continue to work directly with suppliers to ultimately increase our production on color notebooks," he added.

Another bottleneck for Dell: LCDs. "Some screen sizes are in short supply," said Menchaca. Earlier this month, Gruzen also called out screens, specifically backlit LED displays, as contributing to the slow delivery of M1330 orders. Dell's Inspirons are equipped with 17-in. (1720/1721), 15.4-in. (1520/1521) and 14.1-in. (1420) screens, all standard sizes for the laptop computer industry. Some analysts, however, had remarked at the beginning of August that all companies were facing display shortages.

Menchaca said that Dell employees are "working around the clock" to set things right, and the company -- which at the end of the May said it would lay off 8,800 workers over the next 12 months -- has added what he called "dedicated sales and support resources specifically to address the customer experience issues that these delays cause."

As with earlier reports by Menchaca and Gruzen regarding system delays, customers quickly waded in. Almost none of the more than 100 comments left on Menchaca's Friday post were positive toward Dell.

"You guys are building laptops, not Gulfstreams," said a user identified as "Mother of all creatures great and small" on the blog. "I understand how a production glitch here or supply problem there could impact output but you make it seem like you are the victim of the perfect storm. You've been making computers for YEARS! For God's sake, waiting a month for a laptop is insane."

"This has become the party line," said "Is There An Echo?" in another comment. "Pretty much exactly what was posted about the 1330. So we are back to paint and displays causing these delays? Sorry, but it doesn't fly."

Another customer, who said he was still waiting for an Inspiron 1521 ordered July 23, was more concise. "So, here's to crappy service, lame excuses, and no real compensation," said "Frustrated Supervisor."

Currently, Dell's Web site notes delays for most paint options on the Inspiron line. When ordering the Inspiron 1521, for example, only those with black or white cases do not tack on additional days to the estimated ship date. Of the other six picks, the delay range runs from one day (brown) to more than three weeks (pink or yellow).

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