The source for all this is a tweet from Icahn timed to coincide with his "Master of the Universe" cover story in Time:
"Gave $AAPL notice we'll be making a precatory proposal to call for vote to increase buyback program, although not at $150 billion level."
The two key phrases in those 137 characters -- phrases the headline writers seem to have missed -- were "precatory proposal" and "not at $150 billion level."
A precatory proposal, from the Latin precari ("to pray") is a request -- not a "missile" or a "demand" -- for a nonbinding shareholder vote that Tim Cook is free to ignore.
And the request Icahn made -- for a $50 billion buyback, spread out over a year -- is one third of the size of the immediate $150 buyback Icahn was talking about just six weeks ago.
Rather than upping his ante, as the AP had it, Icahn may have just folded.
"Tim Cook is doing a good job with the business," Icahn told Time's Rana Foroohar, repeating a line he's used more than a few times. "I think he's good whether he does what I want or not."
A $50 billion buyback, as it happens, was the high end of a proposal laid out last month by Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi:
"We believe," Sacconaghi wrote in a Nov. 11 note to clients, "that AAPL ought to commit to an ongoing return of cash and look to take on incremental debt to provide flexibility and enable some upfront share repurchases. Specifically, we believe that a one-time buyback of $30 - $50B, and an ongoing commitment to return 75% of annual free cash flow generated would be viewed positively by investors. Moreover, a 60% dividend/40% buyback split of returned cash would generate a ~3.9% yield at current levels."
Cites a single unnamed source "familiar with the situation."
FORTUNE -- Is this the news Apple (AAPL) investors have been waiting so many years to hear?
WSJ: Apple, China Mobile Sign Deal to Offer iPhone
Without an official announcement or independent verification it's hard to say. The fact that it comes from the Wall Street Journal speaks well for the report. The fact that it hangs on a single, unnamed source... not so MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 4, 2013 9:45 PM ET
But who would have guessed that the old iPad Mini would come in second?
FORTUNE -- There are several curious findings in Localytics' attached chart comparing the post-Black Friday/Cyber Monday presence of various devices on its analytics network with their presence the previous week.
That Apple's (AAPL) new iPad Air grew the most (51%) is not terribly surprising. But who would have guessed that...
Gains for the much maligned iPhone 5C (up 26%) would MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 4, 2013 10:38 AM ET
Institutional ownership of Apple stock peaked at 74% in April and has fallen to under 64%.
FORTUNE -- The attached chart comes from UBS's Steven Milunovich, who on Tuesday raised his Apple (AAPL) price target $110 (from $540 to $650) and his rating (from Neutral to Buy) in large part because of the gap between the blue line and the blue shaded area in the attached chart. The gap shows big money from pension MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 4, 2013 7:37 AM ET
Tempers flared and motions flew when Apple balked at $138,432 for two weeks work.
FORTUNE -- My colleague Roger Parloff has posted a fascinating back-channel account of the rapidly deteriorating relations between Apple (AAPL) and Michael Bromwich, its court-appointed e-book antitrust monitor.
The trigger, as it so often is, was money.
"On October 24," Parloff reports, "Apple liaison [Kyle] Andeer angered Bromwich by sending him an email questioning Bromwich's proposed $1,100 hourly fee and MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 3, 2013 12:23 PM ET
A subsidiary's reservation website briefly went live Monday night, came back Wednesday.
FORTUNE -- The attached screen grab comes from a website registered by a subsidiary of China Mobile Limited (CHL) in Suzhou, a city of 5 million just west of Shanghai.
The site went live late Monday local time, and began reserving appointments for customers interested in buying the iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C.
UPDATE: A China Mobile spokesman told CNN's Beijing MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 2, 2013 11:26 PM ET
Kantar reports that nearly half were switching from other brands, chiefly Samsung and LG.
FORTUNE -- When Apple (AAPL) released a pair of new iPhones in September, demand was so lopsided in favor of the more expensive (by $100) model that many on Wall Street assumed that the pricing on the cheaper iPhone was some kind of blunder.
The iPhone 5S continues to outsell its more moderately price sibling -- by three to one in MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 2, 2013 2:05 PM ET
In 4 days of holiday shopping, 83% of mobile sales were made via iOS, 17% via Android.
FORTUNE -- By the time Horace Dediu posted the attached chart on his Asymco.com site, the IBM (IBM) Digital Analytics Benchmark data on which it was based had already been updated. But the broad picture hasn't changed. Over the four-day weekend, Thursday through Sunday:
Online holiday shopping (desktop and mobile) in the U.S. was up 14.5% MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 2, 2013 11:14 AM ET
It looks like it might be an iPad Christmas after all.
FORTUNE -- Some Apple (AAPL) analysts didn't wait for stores to open on Cyber Monday before weighing in on early reports that iPad sales were leading the 2013 holiday buying frenzy.
Here's what we've seen so far. More as they come in.
After spot-checking Black Friday weekend sales, Deutsche Bank's Chris Whitmore raised his price target to $625 from $575. "We have become MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 2, 2013 8:36 AM ET
NetApplications' November report shows steady gains by Android's Jelly Bean version 4.1.
FORTUNE -- Tim Cook likes to trot out Net Applications' monthly reports to show that although Apple's (AAPL) iOS ceded market share this year to Google's (GOOG) Android in terms of devices sold, it continues to dominate the Web in terms of devices used -- i.e. connected to the Internet and generating the online sales and ad revenues that MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 1, 2013 7:20 AM ET
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