Re: Why is it not a good outcome for Apple?
"Had they appealed up to the Supreme Court and lost, they (and many other US tech companies) would be in a bind. If they won, they would be in no better position than they are today."
Depends on one's point of view. The possibility that the FBI will make a similar request in the future is quite high (and getting higher, if Apple's security really does go up), and the matter is currently unresolved. Nobody wants that prospect lurking in the background forever, it'd be better for everyone if it were settled one way or the other.
As things stand the next time this case comes up it might be impossible for Apple to resist; the FBI may have far stronger reasons next time than they did this time. And then the precedent would be set not in Apple's favour.
If Apple were ever to take a chance to settle the matter in the way they wanted, this was the best opportunity. Everyone seemed to think the FBI had a weak hand. But they now cannot do that, even if they wanted to; the case is shelved.
"The fact that the FBI got at the data doesn't really hurt them. Basically from the public point of view, the FBI had a LOT of trouble getting at the data so the phone is more than secure enough for their needs, since most of us wouldn't have the level of resources directed at breaking into our phones that the FBI was putting forth for this one."
Well there's an odd thing. If as you suggest people are happy with the idea that FBI can get into their phones so long as there's some kind of barrier, why wouldn't they be happy with Apple being that barrier to access? They already are for iCloud accounts. It feels like a contradiction. Has Apple actually gone and asked any of their customers if they'd be OK with Apple being a gatekeeper like the one they already are?