How Apple Is Burying Its Scrooge ImageS

There is pain and turmoil in Steve Jobs's death, but for the departed tech executive's company Apple, real opportunity, too. That's why, near the height of the holiday shopping season, Apple is giving precious space on its homepage and in its stores to a charity promotion. It's the sort of philanthropic gesture Jobs made a point of avoiding.

If you look on the lower left corner of Apple.com today, you'll find something extraordinary: A link not to any Apple product, or even to a page within Apple.com, but to 2015quilt.com, a virtual memorial for AIDS victims that raises money to fight the disease by offering users a chance to add their own panel and download an exclusive song from The Killers. Apple will also mark World AIDS Day today with specially outfitted greeters in its stores, who will be showing off (RED) iPod nanos and iPad covers, some of the proceeds from which go to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

To be sure, Apple has promoted (RED) before, giving the prime slot on Apple.com to its (RED) iPod nano back in 2006 and promoting the device at keynotes and in press statements. And the company used a special iTunes page to raise money for the Jan. 2010 earthquake in Haiti. But it's exceptional for the company to put, right on its home page, a link directly to a charitable site, with no tie-in to an Apple product.

It's not the first step Apple's new CEO Tim Cook has taken toward making Apple a kinder company. He launched a $10,000-per-employee charitable matching program just after taking over in September.

The elephant in the room is Apple and Jobs's historic lack of public giving; Jobs shut down Apple's philanthropic program after he returned to the company in 1997, and never brought it back, even after monster profits helped make the company the largest in America by market capitalization.

Jobs, his biographer Walter Isaacson wrote, was "generally dismissive of philanthropic endeavors," and "contemptuous of people who made a display of philanthropy or thinking they could reinvent it." His successors, though, wasted no time in making multiple "display[s] of philanthropy." Sometimes the right sort of charitable "display" is more tasteful than none at all.

[Hat tip to our colleagues at Gizmodo. Image via Getty]