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Layoffs mean relief at Apple

The mood in Cupertino is more one of relief than sadness, except among contract employees who didn't get severance.

CUPERTINO, California--The body count was announced on Friday. But it wasn't until today that many Apple Computer (AAPL) employees learned whether they have a future with the company.

Thousands didn't.

Over drinks at countless sports bars and lunch spots here and in Campbell, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, Apple workers commiserated with colleagues who lost their jobs and with others who kept theirs.

The mood was more one of relief than anger. Many of the 2,700 full-timers scheduled to get pink slips had actually asked to be given the boot, drawn by the promised severance packages. Their objective was DSP: "desperately seeking package."

Susan Space
"I feel very happy leaving," said Susan Space, a nine-year Apple marketing veteran whose imaging products division saw more than half of its 26 employees laid off. "I was going to leave anyway."

Better to leave with six months pay, said this single mother of two teenagers, than just quit. Now she's free to explore an Internet start-up or some other opportunity. "I don't think I could have gone through another round of cutbacks," she added.

The easy road out was closed, however, to the 1,400 contract workers whose layoffs come without severance parachutes.

The minimum severance package was 60 days pay. That means that some recent arrivals got packages that covered more time than they had been with the company. Packages varied by length of time at Apple and grade, ranging up to eight months or even a year for employees at the director level.

Apple spokeswoman Katie Cotton wouldn't say how many people actually got pink slips today, but did say that layoffs would be staggered. Only employees in the United States have so far received notice.

Until today, most people were still unsure of their own personal futures, although management was forthcoming with general information like the percentage of workers laid off in a particular unit.

But everyone knew what was coming. The extra security guards in the lobbies of Apple buildings this morning were a pretty good clue. Most people were told by noon: packages were detailed, identification badges and credit cards surrendered, the six-month free email deal explained. And by the way, your phone extension will be cut off at 5 p.m.

Cotton declined to comment on specifics of how the layoffs were handled.

Regardless of whether they lost their jobs, most employees voiced fierce loyalty to Apple. "It's a great company," said a veteran of ten years who kept her marketing job in Apple's Campbell office. "The hardest part was being in the dark," she said, after lunch and a drink, insisting she would hold the same opinion had she been axed today.

Debby Satten
Some who lost their jobs agreed. "Great products, great people," said Debby Satten, a 11-year employee who got her 8-month severance package today.

That loyalty does not extend to the upper management team, however. "They have totally mismanaged the company," she said, expressing a common view. "A lot of mistakes were made along the way."

"I don't think we'll be around for more than six months anyway. It seems to be as far into the future as they can see," added one employee overheard exiting the Peppermill cocktail lounge.

Even ex-managers joked about the irony of it all. Imaging manager Page Murray III said that since his division was profitable, it was gutted, while executives who had undermined previous reorganizations got better titles.

A 15-year Apple veteran packs it up

Of course, most employees have been waiting for the ax to fall for weeks, if not months. And Apple's human resources department has been generous about helping employees find new jobs. Some even wished that Apple had cut deeper, if it would mean the company's survival.

"I hope they come back," Space said.

Stephanie Miles contributed to this report.