Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Apple Bought iSlate.com — Perhaps for a Tablet?

Clever online sleuthing over the weekend led to the discovery of iSlate.com, a domain Apple purchased in 2007. Could the company’s rumored tablet device be called the iSlate?

Wired’s friend Arnold Kim of MacRumors sniffed out the domain-name registrant history, which revealed Apple as the owner of iSlate.com as of 2007. The website is currently inactive, but Kim speculates Apple could be reserving the domain for a tablet product, which is rumored for a January 2010 announcement.

The “Whois” record of iSlate.com provides solid evidence that Apple bought the domain in 2007 and subsequently transferred the address to MarkMonitor.com, a registrar that handles domain registrations for several companies, including Apple. The purpose of the move is presumably to help obscure products prior to release.

That said, it’s still inconclusive that iSlate will be the name of an Apple touchscreen tablet. (It is, after all, still inconclusive that an Apple tablet even exists.) It’s possible iSlate is one of many candidates for a product name — Apple could have chosen several others and purchased domains for those, as well.

But the iSlate mystery only gets more interesting. Further investigation by TechCrunch revealed iSlate was registered as a trademark in 2006 by an unknown Delaware-based company called Slate Computing. No such company appears with a quick web search. The theory is Slate Computing is a dummy corporation set up to conceal Apple as the true owner of the trademark. Apple employed a similar trick with the iPhone trademark, originally filed by Ocean Telecom Services, another anonymous Delaware-based company.

Finally, the iSlate trademark application reveals the signatory of Regina Porter, who, according to her LinkedIn profile, is Apple’s senior trademark specialist. It seems safe to conclude that the owner of the iSlate trademark is Apple.

Comes off as awfully protective, doesn’t it? However, it’s difficult to tell whether secretly registering trademarks and domains so far in advance is a standard procedure for Apple when deciding on product names. We’re in the process of contacting lawyers to get their perspective on Apple’s moves. We’ll keep you posted.

Long story short, Apple at least considered iSlate as the name for a product and took measures to stealthily reserve it. Whether Apple delivers an iSlate next month, this is a marvelous example of internet-detective work. (By Brian X. Chen / www.wired.com)

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