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Apple hires exec for laptops

Apple hires a senior executive from NEC's laptop operations, a coup for the struggling computer maker.

Apple Computer (AAPL) announced today that it has hired an executive from NEC Technologies' laptop operations, a coup for the struggling computer maker.

Dale Fuller will serve as general manager and vice president of Apple's PowerBook portable computer unit as of September 30. Fuller will oversee the design and marketing of Apple's PowerBook laptops.

"Dale is a seasoned industry executive with direct experience in successfully managing and growing a portable computer business," said Fred Forsyth, senior vice president of the Macintosh Products Group in a statement. "Under his watch at NEC, the laptop division gained market share, broadened its product line, and improved profitability."

Fuller, who will report to Forsyth, was formerly the vice president of laptop computer products at NEC's technologies unit. Fuller is returning to Apple, where he worked from 1987 to 1991 in the business development group.

While such moves are commonplace among many companies, the appointment carries importance for Apple both practically and symbolically. The beleaguered company has seen exodus of top executives in the last year, and it has lost significant market share in the laptop market, where it has encountered quality problems.

During the third quarter, Apple recalled its 5300 and 190 line of laptops over quality issues. The recall affected third quarter sales revenues, which stood at $2.179 billion. The company posted a $32 million et loss for the quarter, as well.

"Fuller's arrival at Apple will be good for the company. Laptops have clearly been an area of disappointment," said Eugene Glazer, a Dean Witter analyst. "It's an area that's created difficulties for the company last quarter with its recall for general quality problems and delays in shipments."

Glazer said NEC has performed a "credible" job in the notebook area.

Fuller replaces Brodie Keast, who briefly held the position following Apple's corporate restructuring. Keast stepped down from the position in July to take a sabbatical, said Kate Paisley, an Apple spokeswoman.

The timing of Fuller's move is key. David Wu, an analyst with the Chicago Corporation, said Fuller has his work cut out.

"Fuller's job is not to catch up to the industry, but to lead it. Apple needs a couple of 'A' products," Wu said. "Apple has an inferior product and they need to close the gap."