October 13, 2006: Apple launches its limited-edition iPod nano (Product) Red Special Edition music player, with 10 percent of profits going to fight AIDS in Africa.
Created in association with U2 lead singer Bono and activist/attorney Bobby Shriver, it’s the first of many Apple philanthropic products. “We’re ecstatic that Apple is giving their customers the choice to buy a red iPod nano and help women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa,” Bono says in a statement.
The (Product) Red iPod nano was just the beginning of Apple’s efforts with Bono’s charity initiative. In the years since, the company created a range of products to benefit The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
A one-of-a-kind red Mac Pro sold at Sotheby’s for $977,000. A Jony Ive-designed (Red) Desk sold for $1,685,000. And more-affordable items like red leather iPhone cases also came out in limited editions.
In late 2013, Bono revealed that Apple raised more than $65 million for (Product) Red.
U2 and Apple’s special relationship
U2’s association with Apple goes back even further. A longtime friend of Steve Jobs, Bono and his band previously teamed up to launch a U2-themed iPod, as well as lending Apple their songs for a memorable iPod commercial.
Bono even bought Jobs’ Central Park West apartment in New York City from the Apple co-founder for $15 million.
Despite this relationship, Jobs could be a hard negotiator. And he was never particularly interested in philanthropy. That made him less likely to aid Bono’s charity for the sake of Apple being a “force for good.” In particular, Jobs abjectly refused to let the (Product) Red iPod nano be released under the name (Apple) Red.
Other companies had let their names be put in parentheses before for the charity, but Jobs felt it diminished Apple by making it appear like an afterthought. The argument between Jobs and Bono got heated — “to the F-you stage,” according to biographer Walter Isaacson — before they agreed to sleep on it.
In the end, they compromised. Jobs let Bono call the product whatever he wanted in his own ads, but Apple would not use anything with (Apple) Red written on it in Apple stores. In every case I’ve seen, the device was named the iPod nano (Product) Red Special Edition.
“Steve can be sparky,” Bono later recalled.
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