On Sunday, Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, announced the company has delivered 20 million masks, and is "working with suppliers to design, produce, and ship face shields for medical workers." Through a spokesperson, Apple says it will deliver 1 million face shields by the end of this week, and it has already made its first delivery this past week to Kaiser medical facilities in the Santa Clara Valley. 

That means Apple's latest product launch is one that most of us will never buy or need--and that's a good thing. In fact, they aren't for sale. Apple is donating them.

In addition, Cook revealed the number of masks donated from Apple's supply chain has now reached 20 million. These are the N95 respirator masks that filter out most airborne particles, including the virus that causes Covid-19.

At a time when masks and shields and other forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) are in high demand and hard to come by, efforts like Apple's make a real difference. Face shields are an especially important piece of PPE for doctors and nurses who are on the frontlines of treating patients with highly infectious diseases.

In an email, the company said it's working with hospitals and government officials to deliver the shields where they're needed most. Apple has one of the largest and most advanced manufacturing supply chains of any company, meaning it's in a unique position to produce and deliver supplies quickly. Its size and scope give it the ability to source materials, aid in design, and increase production capabilities.

Here's the thing: This is exactly the kind of thing you'd expect from a company like Apple. Not because it's cool, or because it makes a lot of money. But because it can. Apple is in a position to help those who need it.

Most of the time, Apple focuses its resources and efforts on building products for its customers. The company is constantly working on the next generation of iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and Macs. It designs new software and invents new features--often delivering them in ways we hadn't expected.

But now, with all of its stores outside of mainland China  closed "until further notice," the company has another mission--helping our healthcare workers fight a battle on everyone's behalf. What these frontline medical workers need more than anything isn't a new iPhone. It's a fighting chance. That's exactly what a mask gives them. It's why face shields are important.

Sure, face shields and masks aren't exciting. They don't get fancy product launches. They don't warrant a keynote presentation. But it's not unreasonable to say that at this moment, an Apple-designed face shield may do more to impact the everyday lives of its users than any product the company has ever built. In fact, like Apple, how every company responds right now says more about who it is than any product it will ever launch.