October 13, 2006: Ten years ago today, Apple launches its limited edition iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition music player.
Created in association with U2 lead singer Bono and Bobby Shriver, 10 percent of each units sold goes to fighting AIDS in Africa. “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 .
To (APPLE) RED or not to (APPLE) RED?
The (PRODUCT) RED iPod was just the beginning of Apple’s efforts in Bono’s charity initiative. In the years since, the company has created a one-of-a-kind red Mac Pro, which sold at Sotheby’s for $977,000; a Jony Ive-designed (RED) Desk , which sold for $1,685,000 — as well as more affordable limited editions like red leather iPhone cases .
In late 2013, Bono revealed that Apple had raised more than $65 million for (PRODUCT) RED — with the amount no doubt significantly higher today.
U2’s own association with Apple goes back a lot further, however. A long-time friend of Steve Jobs (who once bought Jobs’ Central Park West, New York apartment from the Apple co-founder for $15m), Bono and his band had previously teamed up to launch a U2-themed iPod , as well as lending Apple of their songs for a memorable iPod commercial .
Despite this, Jobs could be a hard negotiator — and was never particularly interested in philanthropy, which made him less likely to help Bono’s plight 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.
Putting a company’s name in parentheses was something other companies had done 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. Bono was allowed to call the product whatever he wanted in his own ads, but Apple would not use anything with (APPLE) RED written on 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.
Did you own this model of iPod? Leave your comments below.