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The Apple Armada - Still worthy of the Jolly Roger?

Steve gets his F

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Apple's Shame

Well, we thought, maybe Apple's just shy and would prefer to shun the limelight of recognition. So we talked with the San Francisco Business Times researcher who compiled the list, and he said that, yes, he had asked Apple for information about their charitable contributions, but no, they didn't supply any.

Fair enough, that's their right - but if Apple declined to list their philanthropic info in the Book of Lists, perhaps their largess would show up in the annual reports of local institutions that they'd naturally be expected to support. So we perused the donor rolls of The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, which lists Microsoft, Intel, and Adobe as among its donors in the $100,000 to $249,999 category. Apple was nowhere to be found, and no corporate donors were listed as Anonymous.

Mountain View's smaller Computer History Museum includes HP, IBM, and NVIDIA among its $50,000 donors; Apple's not on their list either. Okay, so maybe Apple doesn't give cash. How about in-kind support, meaning hardware or software? Nope. Neither museum lists any help from Apple whatsoever.

Well, maybe Apple simply prefers to remain so anonymous that it doesn't even want to be listed as Anonymous. Could happen. But, if so, the top fundraising professionals of the Bay Area would still know of their good works. So we tracked down ten of the area's best-connected charitable consultants and asked what they knew of Apple's corporate philanthropy.

The answers ranged from "I've never heard of any cash grants" to "It's honestly something many folks in Silicon Valley ponder" to "Steve Jobs definitely does not have a reputation as being a philanthropist." None of these elymosenary experts had any knowledge of any financial support from Apple to any Bay Area institutions.

Since then, Apple has made a $100,000 political (as opposed to philanthropic) donation to fight Prop 8, the California constitution amendment that (successfully) sought to end gay marriage in the state. So maybe things are turning around. And to be scrupulously fair, some of the fundraising professionals we contacted spoke anecdotally of individual Apple-equipment donations to schools (though they didn't cite any specifics, just that they had "heard of" them).

Apple also sponsors a handful of education-related events such as student film festivals, and the company's education-support efforts such as the Apple Learning Interchange and the marvelous free iTunes U are laudable. And then there's Apple's participation in (PRODUCT) RED, which donates a portion of the proceeds from special edition iPods and gift cards to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa - but Apple wouldn't tell The Reg how much it has contributed to that effort.

But unless Apple is unusually modest about good works, its philanthropic activities have been almost non-existent. For a company with $25 billion cash in the bank, that's nothing less than shameful.

Corporate Philanthropy: F

Rik Myslewski is the former editor in chief of MacAddict and former executive editor of MacUser. He joins The Reg full-time on December 1.

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