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.
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. “I’ve used it in several scenarios around the house and in the car,” says Mr. Rathel, 45 years old, who, as a manager of field training, spends a lot of time on the road. He also uses it while waiting to pick up his daughter from soccer practice.
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.