Dell blames cooling assembly for XPS 700 delays

UPDATE 8 August 2006 5:50 pm ET

Round Rock (TX) - Dell Computer corporate communications specialist Liem Nguyen told TG Daily this afternoon that a problem with the installation of the cooling assembly in the company's top-of-the-line enthusiast desktop system, the XPS 700, has been pegged as the culprit responsible for shipment delays, a series of which has plagued the product since its announcement late last May. Dell now expects a resolution of the problem to be implemented immediately, and customers with pending orders to receive their machines in the four- to eight-week timeframe.

Last July, this Dell XPS 700 looked ready to play 'Ghost Recon' ... albeit with the case open.

"Given competitive constraints, we can't provide a lot of product details," Nguyen told TG Daily, "but I can tell you that, as we ramped production, we discovered an issue that could, in very rare circumstances, affect system operation. It's related to the installation of the cooling assembly. Now, this issue is contributing to the current extended lead times, because even though it has a very rare chance of occurring, we are delaying shipments until we complete testing of the resolution, and every system meets our reliability standards."

Nguyen's statement effectively exonerates Intel - which had been suspected of causing supply problems with not only Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors, but earlier Pentium D 9xx series as well - as well as Nvidia, whose nForce 590 chipset has been reported to have behavior problems with Intel's Conroe series processors, reportedly due to driver issues. Similar issues are believed to have delayed shipments of nForce 590-based motherboards for Intel processors through OEM and customer channels; Dell designs its own motherboards. Last week, a spokesperson for Nvidia told TG Daily they know of no serious engineering issues regarding the XPS 700 and Nvidia equipment which would have contributed to these delays.

If it's anything Dell doesn't need right now, it's more systems catching fire. As Nguyen described it to us this afternoon, Dell began officially shipping XPS 700 systems on 20 July, two weeks after the company unveiled the upgraded version of its system specifications, to include Core 2 Duo and Extreme processors. At least one customer did indeed receive his system on 27 July, and posted pictures of it to his blog. But along with those photographs is also a story of having ordered an XPS 700 on 2 June, and having originally been quoted a three-week lead time, meaning he would have been promised a ship date of around 23 June.

Nguyen repeated to us several times - after we asked him several times, in several ways - that the cooling assembly problem was discovered since 20 July. "Let me be very clear," he said at one point. "We discovered this issue very recently after we began shipping. I'm not going to go into details about the specific timelines. I can tell you that we started shipping in late July, we posted [that news] on our Web site, and as of July 20, we posted on our blog that we're ramping production."

Ramping, just as on a public freeway, is an accelerating process that starts slow and builds up. Nguyen told us the anomaly was discovered during this ramping period, since the 20th of last month. However, news of the identity of this anomaly was made public only today - nearly three weeks later. Regarding this interval, Nguyen said, "I think you're implying that there was a long period of time, and there definitely was not.

"Sometimes when things crop up," Nguyen explained, "you want to be very sure you understand the situation before you communicate anything. And that takes time, right? We actually are able to respond much quicker than anyone in the industry, because we have direct relationships with our suppliers and partners, and our factories are all built to not make anything until customers order it. We can react very quickly, and it still takes some time for us to assess the situation and respond accordingly. We actually discovered that issue, and we jumped on it, right away, and we're now working to implement the fix, and we'll begin fulfilling the orders as quickly as possible."