Some Thoughts On What’s Behind Apple’s Non-News
This essay originally appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Sign up here.
I’m traveling, have been finishing a story related to Fortune’s annual list of 50 World’s Greatest Leaders (which we’ll share on Thursday), and then there was the sad news of Andy Grove’s passing. I did notice there was some news about Apple (AAPL) on Monday. Or, to put it more succinctly, there was a ton of non-news about it.
Let’s start with the FBI, which believes it can get into the notorious San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone without Apple’s help after all. No one looks particularly great, here. For Apple, if it turns out its encrypted phone isn’t impenetrable, that’s not the greatest development. For the FBI, how likely is a judge to grant its next request after its never-mind maneuver on Monday?
Then there was what by all accounts appears to have been a snoozer of an Apple product event on the same day the FBI called off its showdown with Apple. I’ve been to many Apple events in the last decade, and not each one is scintillating. So the company gets a pass now and then for underwhelming its fans. The release of a new, smaller iPhone seems particularly unnewsworthy as a kind of stasis seems to be apparent at Apple. For now.
A few observations I gleaned from a report by Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi, who has been watching Apple longer than I have.
* At Apple’s “last event in September, CEO [Tim] Cook stated that the company was ‘firing on all cylinders’ and highlighted Apple’s strength in China in the previous quarter.” On Monday Cook said nothing about financial performance. Make of that what you will.
* Could it be that Apple’s “new willingness to trade off current hardware profit margins to volume and drive its installed base” has to do with wanting to better monetize its services? Cook has increasingly discussed Apple’s services of late.
* “Apple stated that Apple News has 50 million active subscribers, which is a relatively underwhelming figure. Given its installed base of 1 billion total devices (and perhaps 500 million to 600 million unique iOS users), 50 million subscribers represents penetration of only about 10% for a free service.”