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An end to the Google bonus fairytale?

Google employees used to fairytale-like cash bonuses on the north side of $20,000 will have have to put up with a cell phone this year.

Google's gift to staffers: the HTC Dream, or G1, smartphone. James Martin/CNET Networks

Clarification added December 30 (see text below).

For Googlers eagerly awaiting their famous holiday bonuses, be warned: Santa is tightening his belt too.

Google employees, some of whom have reportedly grown used to fairytale-like cash bonuses on the north side of $20,000, apparently got coal in their stockings this year. Certainly that's the takeaway for gossip blog Valleywag, which in a headline likened this year's bonus to "dogfood"--a euphemism for in-house testing--because Google would like some feedback. (Clarification: A few Google employees have contacted me to suggest that Valleywag's report on holiday bonus amounts of $20,000 likely confused performance bonuses with holiday bonuses said to be on the order of $1,000.)

So how bad was it? Well, Google gave its employees a smartphone. Yep, can you believe it? Man, if I had a nickel for all the years my bosses gave me a smartphone...

But I digress. Back to Google's gift. Apparently, Valleywag took issue with Google giving its employees an Android--its own phone! Well, actually, the memo that Valleywag reprinted referred to it as a "Dream phone." It's basically the T-Mobile G1 that retails for $179.99, but it's been customized to "work anywhere in the world" on the carrier of their choice. (Google estimates its value at $400.)

The nerve!

Here, in the real world, while many in the tech industry have received pink slips, Google employees are receiving a gift--oh, yeah, it is a gift--that many people would love to find under their trees. What a bummer, man. As far as the dogfooding goes, I am guessing that this company that has a reputation for being astoundingly generous when economic realities were more positive isn't going to can employees for not sending back the questionnaire.

Now, back to the topic of Santa...