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Please leave your iPod at the door

Voluntarily laid-off employees of National Semiconductor have been asked to return company iPods given to them in June.

On June 12, National Semiconductor publicly announced that it had "equipped every one of its 8,500 employees with a 30-gigabyte video iPod." The company announced the program internally on June 9, according to Jeff Weir, a National Semiconductor spokesman.

"While designed for personal entertainment, the popular Apple MP3 player will be used as a new training and communications tool at National, providing a convenient real-time method for employees to download National podcasts and other employee communications," National Semiconductor said. The company permitted employees to also use the iPods for personal use, according to Weir.

Shortly before the July 4 holiday, National Semiconductor asked for voluntary resignations at its Arlington, Texas, facility, Weir told CNET The layoff is due to the downtime the company will have as it converts from 200mm to 300mm wafers. The 35 employees who agreed to the voluntary resignation were asked to either return their iPods, or buy them "at a fair market used price."

One employee, however, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that some believed the iPods were gifts given for a good fiscal year. The source said some employees gave the devices away or sold them, the newspaper reported.

"We thought (the iPod) was a natural extension of reaching employees, no different than a blackberry, notebook or a cell phone," Weir said.

The company had given the iPods to its employees amid much publicity. The use of iPods as a company tool was a natural fit as National Semiconductor makes the type of analog chips that go inside the Apple Computer devices. At the time, the media asked whether employees would have to return the MP3 players upon departure from the company. The question had gone unanswered.