The FBI is playing a blinder and Joe Public is lapping it up.
This is not about whether Apple is good or Bad ... whatever that means.
This is not about supporting the victims of the Terrorists.
This is not about the FBI being reasonable.
This is not about whether Apple is a friend of their Customers.
This is not about whether Apple is a Patriot.
The US Govt, through its agencies, does not want encryption out in the 'Real' world.
It cannot roll back the clock so wants any encryption to be breakable if it must exist..
All attempts to date to 'encourage' cooperation in this agenda has been unsuccessful.
The events of San Bernardino have given them an opportunity to use public outrage as a lever to get what they want out of Apple. This not only gives them a public win but a demonstrable scenario where forced cooperation by a vendor has worked.
It does not matter what the FBI agrees to in this case as the real objective is to have a proven winning legal argument which can be used again and again.
If Apple does what is asked they WILL be asked to do it again, not only by the US but also many countries around the world.
Apple will have no winning argument possible and the bounds of the original legal argument will be pushed further and further by every new request.
(It is how the law works everywhere, you take old legal decisions and push and stretch the bounds with new arguments and cases.)
In terms of whether the FBI or other agencies will get access to the methods to crack the encryption on other phones/tablets, I would be very surprised if they did not 'acquire' whatever they needed by old tried and tested methods as usually practised on the enemies of the US of A. :)
It is a thin end of the wedge.
What works against Apple will work against anyone else.
If Apple cannot win with their resources, it will be a lost cause for all other vendors.
I support Apple only because the legal precedence is a worrying one for our future privacy.
This is yet another instance where the general apathy towards Privacy and associated rights will be used against the public to their own detriment and long-term loss.
It is already being reported that the likelihood of any information of use being on the phone is small, yet the FBI has started a very public fight with Apple.
It does not make sense unless the greater fight is beyond the phone itself.
If Apple lose this fight you will be the one who pays, even if you have no Apple devices !!!
Mr Gates, I suspect simply could not resist stirring the pot and making things worse for Apple if he could. (Old rivalries and all that!)
A wounded Apple would push some business towards MS as well as the other competitors.
Such an opportunity to stir-up anti-Apple sentiment would be very hard to resist. :)