Tablet to be Called iSlate?

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So, after years of speculation, debate and rumor-upon-rumor, the mythical tablet device from Apple is, it seems, here. In a matter of weeks we expect Steve Jobs to take to the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and deliver the announcement we’ve all been waiting for.

And when he does, will he call the legendary tablet an “iSlate”? He will, if the current crop of fresh rumors prove correct.

MacRumors has been doing a fair bit of digging and, despite some cunning digital sleight of hand by the boys and girls in Cupertino, has discovered that the domain name islate.com is registered to Apple. MacRumors has this to say on the tortuous history of the iSlate domain;

The iSlate.com domain was originally registered in October 2004 by a company called Eurobox Ltd. It later changed hands to Data Docket, Inc. in 2006. In 2007, however, the domain was transferred to registrar MarkMonitor.com. MarkMonitor handles domain name registrations and trademark protections for many companies, including Apple. As is typical, however, the name of the actual registrant was initially hidden to obscure the identify of the actual owner.

[…] after further investigation of the domain name registrant history, it seems Apple’s name was temporarily exposed as the actual owner of “iSlate.com” for several weeks in late 2007. It was changed back within a few weeks…

And the triumphant icing on this little cake of investigative journalism is a screenshot of the registrant details [image by MacRumors];

Of course, the question now is whether this is the real, final name of the device or some sort of devious distraction designed to throw curious cats off the scent. Would Steve Jobs really have settled on a name for a brand new device so many years before going to market?

Trademarks, Ghost Companies and Name Drops

But wait, there’s more. Not to be outdone in the art of digging through obscure, dusty microfiche in the darkened basement of the Internet, TechCrunch has found compelling ties between Apple and various legal and business entities indicating they not only own the iSlate domain, but also the iSlate trademark, in several key territories including the United Kingdom, France, Japan and China.

Furthermore, in the United States, the iSlate trademark is registered to a company called “Slate Computing.” TechCrunch offer a compelling trail of breadcrumbs that lead from Slate Computing right back to Apple. It’s a somewhat convoluted path that takes quite a number of dastardly administrative twists and turns, but if you stick with it, the conclusion is fairly compelling. Take a look, it’s definitely worth a read.

And then there’s that name-drop by New York Times editor Bill Keller, which I wrote about here back in October. Keller’s comments during a speech he made to a gathering of the NYT staff included the use of the word “slate” which was notable at a time when most people were still just using the noun “tablet” to describe Apple’s mythical device;

I’m hoping we can get the newsroom more actively involved in the challenge of delivering our best journalism in the form of Times Reader, iPhone apps, WAP, or the impending Apple slate, or whatever comes after that.

(You can watch the video of the speech here, just scooch forward about eight minutes.)

So was Keller inadvertently dropping the name of Apple’s upcoming tablet? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility; after all, rumor has it Apple has been secretly meeting with major publishers (including the New York Times) in the latter half of this year, presumably offering guidance and advice on how best to leverage their new platform for content delivery. As a senior editor, it’s entirely reasonable to assume Keller would have been privy to that information, possibly even present during one of those meetings.

Devil’s Advocate

On the other hand, is it more likely that this is simply one of dozens – possibly hundreds – of domains Apple has snapped-up over the years to protect their iProduct branding? Some of the more obvious domains actually do something useful and redirect to product pages on apple.com (see what happens if you try to go to ipod.com or imac.com). At the moment, however, islate.com goes nowhere. At the moment.

Personally, I don’t dislike it. I can see some of the more dumb abuses it invites; iSlate – Eye-s-late? As in, “I ‘s late… for this meeting.” There are probably more. Share your own in the comments below, let us know what you think of the name, or just let us know if you think this is a red herring.

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