Companies put Apple iPods to work

“Apple iPods are becoming an important training and communication tool for some companies,” Anjali Athavaley reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“When Gaddis Rathel needed to learn Spanish for his job, his boss gave him an unusual tool to help: a black video Apple iPod, preloaded with language lessons,” Athavaley reports. “Last month, Mr. Rathel’s employer — ACG Texas LP, a Plano, Texas, franchisee of the pancake-house chain IHOP Corp. — started testing Apple Computer Inc.’s digital media player on a few employees to save money on Spanish-language classes. Now, rather than sit in a class on company time or read a textbook, Mr. Rathel uses the iPod for audio training in his spare time.”

Athavaley reports, “People used to hide their iPods from their bosses, if they used them in the office at all. Now the bosses are passing them out to their employees. Companies from health-care suppliers to fast-food chains are handing out free iPods so that employees can download audio and video files of CEO announcements, training courses and sales seminars.”

“Last summer, National Semiconductor Corp., a chip manufacturer in Santa Clara, Calif., spent $2.5 million on video iPods for its 8,500 employees, including those overseas, for training purposes and company announcements. At Capital One Financial Corp., a financial services company based in McLean, Va., more than 3,000 employees have received iPods since the company began using them in supplementary training classes,” Athavaley reports.

Full article here.

Related article:
National Semiconductor gives all 8,500 employees 30GB video-capable Apple iPods – June 12, 2006


  1. That’s scary, having to do company business in your spare time without compensation or remuneration. Now if this time spent is completely voluntary, no problem. However, requiring workers to develop skills the business needs on their own time is unfair and unreasonable.

  2. @maczealot

    It’s quite common though. Even sometimes requiring employees to attend extracurricular “training events” or “brainwashing events” on their own time. Oh, they provide food (if you can call it that) as “compensation”, which is a load of bunk. Drive 45 minutes to a location on an OFF day to sit there for 4-5 hours of crap for some cruddy cold pizza. Yeah, that’s worth it.

    Unfair and unreasonable? To say the least.

  3. A professional keeps up with the latest developements in his or her profession, on his or her own, without remuneration.

    If more people acted like professionals they might be surprised how quickly their extra work is rewarded.

  4. My wife signed an employment contract with her employer that requires her to be in the office 50 hours per week (that number is mainly because the company founders work 60+ hours per week). That employer is paying 1/3 of her MBA. She typically has about 30 hours of work per week. The other 20 hours she spends studying, doing research, writing papers, creating presentations, and other class-related homework. For me this arrangement works well because I actually have some quality time with my wife at night. However she still has to attend 9 hours of classes each week.

    maczealot who is being abused in that relationship? My wife or the employer?

  5. Big Al,

    I’m sure those fast food employees will see big pay raises after learning new skills on their own time – NOT! Who do you think you’re kidding?


    Yes, it is unreasonable. If you need your employees to learn something new, you should be prepared to pay for that knowledge. This is America, and here you pay for things or you don’t get them.

  6. No, no, all of what you say is fine. Keeping up with your profession, etc etc, on your own. I do all that, and many others do too. To require employees to attend long drawn-out propaganda events that benefit no one, on their own time, for no pay, is what is unfair. My statement had nothing to do with learning a new language or being reimbursed in other ways. Actually, my statement was narrowly focused at that one particular instance. There are many other examples where it would be completely worthwhile and acceptable, and not at all unfair. It’s all about the context and the intent.

  7. Anything that make you grow intelectually (I am not talking about “brain wash”) should be welcomed even in your own time. It costs a lot to the company and, yes, it is for their own benefit. However, if you get well trained, it is excellent for you. It could become your intelectual prolerty, it goes directly to your very personal belongings and nobody can take it out of you.

    Good, very good to learn a second language, new skills, new ways at seeing life or work. Ways of face at problems, etc. those thiks are unvaluable.

  8. Chris
    Fast food workers are paid, like many other fields, by the difficulty of the work, the difficulty learning the work, and the pool of available workers. America isn’t like some places where doctors are considered “average” workers.

    At one point the article says “in his free time”, which doesn’t always mean “off the clock”, and even then, people have always been, through the deacdes, encouraged to further themselves by developing skills after hours.

    Another way to look at this is “this is America, where you are paid for what you know”

    Former IBEW worker

  9. To maczealot and chris: Good luck is your careers. Bettering yourselves without expectation of direct outside payment is part of professionalism, maturation, and life itself. I own an ad agency. My clients, who are my employers, did not pay me to go learn any of things I know. I have to bring those to the table before they even consider doing business with me. Whether it was studying the aspects of successful advertising, attending trade shows and seminars on my own time, teaching myself skills from general computer capabilities to db building, web design and hosting (1995), SQL, Photoshop and other CS apps, Final Cut Pro and the Studio Suite… my client’s don’t pay for this. My learning these things makes me more valuable to my clients, and keeps my business strong, and in the long run… profitable. If a client was to come to me with an iPod loaded with a Japanese language program and said, “Learn this because we have project for which you will need to speak Japanese” I would say, “Thanks for the opportunity!” first, and secondly, “Do I get to keep the iPod?” Opportunity is more valuable than money.

    There is only ONE reason why some people “get ahead”. That’s because so many others don’t even join the race. Peace.

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