Dell hires HP's top notebook executive for client group

Alex Gruzen has left Hewlett-Packard (HP) to share responsibility for Dell's client product group with John Medica, a Dell spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

As senior vice president and general manager at HP, Gruzen ran the company's notebook, Tablet PC, and PDA (personal digital assistant) division prior to leaving. When he joins Dell later this month, he will share joint responsibility with Medica for product development, marketing, and procurement within Dell's client product business, said Mike Maher, a Dell spokesman. Medica currently shares responsibility for the entire product group with Jeff Clarke.

Medica and Clarke's current arrangement is known as "two in a box" inside Dell. This management style is used within Dell all the way to the top. Despite the recent elevation of Kevin Rollins to the chief executive officer post, Rollins shares overall management responsibility for the company with founder and Chairman Michael Dell. Several other high-profile business functions are run that way at Dell in the marketing, sales, and manufacturing departments.

Executives in a two-in-the-box arrangement share overall decision-making responsibility for their respective businesses. Most companies prefer to have one person as the chief decision maker, but Dell believes that having two leaders allows those individuals and their groups to benefit from hearing a variety of viewpoints. The arrangement is generally used in a situation where the job entails a great deal of traveling or is spread across a wide variety of technologies, such as the product group.

Dell's client business has grown, and both Gruzen and Medica will have plenty of work to do, Maher said. Clarke's role as head of the enterprise group will not change, making the product group a triumvirate, he said.

It also means Dell now has insight into HP's notebook and PDA product strategy over the upcoming months. The two companies are locked in fierce competition for the top spot in PC market share, and Gruzen's hiring gives Dell a sense of what HP is trying to do as both companies head into the fourth-quarter holiday shopping season.

The fourth quarter tends to be the strongest of the year for the PC industry. HP usually has an edge on Dell in the quarter because it generates a larger part of its revenue from consumer purchases.

HP representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Gruzen worked for Compaq in a similar role before that company was acquired by HP. Prior to Compaq, Gruzen worked for Sony, according to a document on HP's Web site.

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