National Semi Makes iPod Standard Issue

The latest company perk is, literally, music to the ears of National
Semiconductor employees. The chip manufacturer announced today it’s giving
all 8,500 employees a new 30GB video iPod.

The news comes on the heels of National announcing the most successful
fiscal year in its history, but the company said the iPods are more than just a reward for
its employees.

“We’re looking for new and more effective ways to communicate with our
employees — and the iPods will help us do both,” said Brian L. Halla,
National Semi’s chairman and CEO, in statement.

National Semi spokesman Jeff Weir said his company has very real
productivity expectations. He notes that half of the employees work in chip
fabrication and test facilities where they aren’t near a PC.

“They aren’t checking emails from management all the time,” said Weir.
“This is another method for us to communicate information to employees,
whether it’s corporate speeches from the CEO, flash podcasts or new product
snippets. It will all be available on iTunes for them to view at their leisure.”

Weir said National is putting together a training program to make sure all employees know how to use the iPods and access content on iTunes.

National’s 1,600 local employees were at the annual company picnic Friday
when Halla announced the iPod giveaway.

National bought the iPods directly from Apple, which has been offering
special edition U2 units in its product line. National employees didn’t
get the hit band’s edition, but iPods engraved with the company logo and
slogan “The Sight and Sound of Information.”

Among National’s main products are analog integrated circuits used in
portable devices. Forty percent of its revenue comes from sales to cell
phone manufacturers; it also sells power management chips to Apple for the

Analyst Roger Kay was skeptical of any productivity benefits. “If the
company CEO has a message to distribute to employees, I’d rather read it and
be able to skim over parts that may not be of interest, rather than listen
to the whole thing,” Kay, of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told “Dilbert will have fun with this.”

Last week Santa Clara, Calif.-based National Semi reported record
operating profits and gross margin. Year-to-year revenue growth was 23
percent. It’s fourth quarter revenues reached $572.6 million, up 4.5 percent from
Q3 revenues of $547.7 million.

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