Inc. Sued for ESD
Vanessa Hua of the San Francisco Chronicle
reported that Palm, Inc. has been sued for ESD problems. The lawsuit,
filed in August in San Francisco County Superior Court, claimed
the function that allows people to synchronize the data of the mobile
device to their PCs "damages or destroys the motherboards on
certain PC brands."The suit did not specify which Palm models
were allegedly defective or what kinds of PCs were affected. The
Pinnacle Law Group of San Francisco, which filed the suit on behalf
of California residents Melissa Connelly and Laurence Stanton, seeks
ESD Journal's attempts to obtain comments
from the Santa Clara based Palm, Inc., which has sold more than
13.7 million of its devices, have been unsuccessful.
Steve Fowler of Fowler Associates,
Inc.,an ESD Consulting firm, stated that his company has received
reports of ESD problems with handheld devices such as audio players
and PDA'a. The problem of static electricity with handheld devices
is growing. As devices become faster, grow smaller and more sophisticated
so does their sensitivity and therefore their vulnerability. Some
of the problems have been discomfort to the user such as discharges
to the ear of an MP3 player user. Others have been damage to the
PDA or the computer to which it may be connected. Mr. Fowler stated
that any heldheld device by being carried builds a static charge
as the user moves and walks. Then when it is plugged in its cradle,
a static discharge or ESD event may take place. Some handheld audio
devices have been reported to have severe ESD events to the user's
ear from the earphones. This is similar to the case reorted by Call
Center operators. Shock
in the Call Center
Users claim, in Palm's case, that touching
the PDA in the cradle causes an ESD event to go through the cable
to the desktop computer's serial port. This may damage the serial
port and can cause the computer to restart unexpectedly or be unable
to connect with peripherals.
The lawsuit was filed by Pinnacle Law Group in San Francisco. It
alleges that Palm did not disclose that consumers would have to
replace computers damaged during the synchronization process or
that they might need to purchase protective devices to minimize
static electricity. The suit claims there are are hundreds of thousands
of purchasers of defective PDA's.
Many of the PDA users are already convinced
that static electricity is the culprit.
Ms Hua reported the following user
"It's supposed to be a device
that makes life less stressful, but it got me all worked up about
it," said Emily Clouthier, 19, a junior at the University of
Michigan who says a static charge that passed through her Palm damaged
her Dell computer in December. The material science major had to
replace her computer's motherboard. She is not a part of the Palm
suit, although she contacted Pinnacle to learn more about the alleged
Stephen Wise, a San Francisco accountant, said he smelled smoke
and heard a crackle of static after putting his Palm Vx in the cradle.
Wise claims his computer was damaged, forcing him to replace his
PC during the busy tax season. "They (Palm's customer service)
said they never heard of anything like that, " Wise said.
On the Palm Web site, this customer
info sheet was posted a few months ago:
"Mobile devices build up ESD in a unique way simply because
consumers may have static electricity built up on their body, which
is automatically passed to the device they are carrying," the
site reads. "When they dock that device, a discharge event
can occur passing the charge to the computer system." Another
Palm fact sheet goes on to say that the company meets all standards
for static electricity protection, and that consumers should contact
the computer manufacturer if they suspect damage to the PC.
Ms. Hua also reported that every so often, Clif Overcash felt a
shock when he touched the metal casing of his Palm Vx after he rolled
his chair across the carpet. On the advice of a tech-savvy friend,
Overcash tried to ground himself by touching the metal molding of
his office windows before putting his PDA in the cradle. Then, in
April of this year, the Fort Worth, Texas, real-estate investor
discovered his Palm no longer could communicate with his Dell computer.
He replaced the motherboard of his PC, later installed a plastic
static guard sent from Palm, and then bought an adapter to connect
the cradle via the USB port. That solved the problem for a while,
but now his Palm cannot synchronize again. "There's a lot of
finger pointing going on. I don't know whose problem it is,"
The user of a handheld device should
not be responsible for its ESD protection. Manufacturers should
make their devices able to work in the environment for which it
is intended. Early PDA's had static-electricity problems. Several
companies who make PDA's have made efforts at solving these problems.