Dell confirms laptops shipped with misconfigured keyboard

Dell has gotten off to a bad start with its new push into the lucrative laptop business.

The company surprised some European customers by shipping them new laptops with misconfigured keyboards. Jennifer Davis, a Dell spokeswoman, confirmed Friday that a number of new Vostro 1310 and 1510 laptops were shipped with an extra key – a forward slash – between the left-hand shift key and the Z key.

Davis would not say how many laptops with the misconfigured keyboard have been shipped to customers.

Dell began shipping the new Vostro laptops in Europe on April 15. The company has been slated to begin shipping them to the rest of the world on May 6. Davis said the keyboard problem is affecting computers that are waiting to be shipped, so there could be some delay in shipping the laptops until the keyboard issue is corrected.

Jake Gordon, who bought a Vostro 1310 laptop, said on his blog that he bought a defective laptop and alerted Dell to the problem. “Looks normal, right? Look at your own keyboard… notice anything different?” he wrote. “They [sic] keys are all there… its just that the left shift is too big, forcing everything over too far. The Z has to be between the A and S… look on ANY other keyboard and that’s where it sits. This is not a US/UK layout issue, just a general monumental flaw.”

And it’s a badly timed flaw as Dell launches its push into the laptop market, said Jim McGregor, an analyst at In-Stat in Scottsdale, Ariz. “It does not bode well for their quality assurance. That’s a major faux pas, especially since no one noticed it. It definitely won’t make corporate consumers happy. It definitely doesn’t make you look good.”

Dell announced in mid-April that the release of its new Vostro line of laptops was part of a corporate plan to increase its laptop portfolio by 50% this year. Dell has been chasing rival Hewlett-Packard Co. in the laptop battle for months. McGregor noted that HP has a firm grip on the number one spot in the list of top laptop manufacturers.

And while Dell is chasing HP, it also has to look over its shoulder at Acer, which is coming on strong in the laptop arena, and Lenovo, which recently announced its move into the consumer laptop market. Dell’s Davis said the company will give customers the choice between receiving a new keyboard and bios upgrade or waiting longer to have a technician make the fix.

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