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Lenovo Probes Burning Laptop, Doesn't Rule Out Recall

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Lenovo

investigators are still examining a ThinkPad laptop that overheated and erupted in flames last week at Los Angeles International Airport, and the PC manufacturer at this point does not plan a recall, a spokesman said Friday morning.

"Our first priority is public safety," Lenovo's Ray Gorman told WRAL.com. "We will do whatever necessary that is in the best interest of our customers."

The laptop incident, which has been widely covered on weblogs, created a near panic when the computer exploded like fireworks, according to various reports.

"Our investigative team was in Los Angeles within 12 hours," Gorman said. "We flew the batteries to our lab in Yamato, Japan." He said it would be a "couple of days" before results of the investigation would be known.

Once the results are in, Gorman added, "We will make a final determination" about the next steps that need to be taken.

The ThinkPad was powered by Sony batteries, Gorman acknowledged.

"We can confirm that the incident did happen," he said. "We can confirm that it was Sony batteries."

Millions of Sony lithium ion batteries were recalled last month after a series of overheating incidents -- and in some cases fires -- involving Dell and Apple laptops.

Gorman declined to say how many Lenovo laptops are equipped with Sony batteries. "We don't release information like that," he said.

Gorman also stressed that Lenovo "had not seen an unusual pattern" of overheating in its laptops, and he said that "incidents such as that at LAX are extremely rare."

"No make or model of battery is immune," he added.

Dell recalled more than 4 million batteries, and Apple recalled nearly 2 million.

In recent weeks, three airlines (Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, Quantas) have banned use of Dell and Apple laptops on batteries.

This week, Virgin announced that Dell and Apple users would be required to remove the batteries from laptops and place them in hand luggage before they could plug the machines into power outlets aboard aircraft.

Lenovo, the world's third-largest computer manufacturer behind Dell and HP, is building a new international headquarters in Morrisville. It acquired IBM's PC and laptop (ThinkPad) business unit from IBM in 2005. Most of the former IBM employees who joined Lenovo as part of the sale are based around the Triangle.

Lenovo's laptops have received the highest customer satisfaction survey results over the past seven quarters in research conducted by Technology Business Research.

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