Apple Tablet Rumour Frenzy After iSlate Discovery

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The rumour mill surrounding Apple’s tablet device has gone into overdrive after reports suggested that Apple now owns the islate.com domain name

Reports have emerged on a number of Apple-focused blogs that Apple is the owner of the iSlate.com domain name, for its yet to be announced tablet device.

Apple-centric blogs, notably MacRumors, sniffed out that Apple may have possibly acquired the domain name islate.com. While typing the URL into a browser yields only a “Page Load Error,” MacRumors apparently dug into the domain name registrant history for the site and found that, in late 2007, Apple was indeed the Registrant of record for the site.

The name “iSlate,” according to TechCrunch, was registered as a trademark three years ago; according to the blog, the company doing the registering, Slate Computing, could possibly be an Apple dummy corporation.

In late October, Bill Keller, the executive editor at The New York Times, also alluded to “the impending Apple slate.” However, the question remains whether Keller was referring to “Slate,” proper noun, or “slate,” as in “upcoming slate of products.” Other reports at the same time suggested that Apple was in talks with publishing companies over porting their content onto an Apple device.

Additionally fuelling the rumours over the weekend was a report in the Financial Times blog, widely disseminated, which quoted unnamed inside sources as saying that Apple had rented the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, for several days near the end of January.

A “major product announcement” would be made on that stage on 26 January, the sources suggested.

Boy Genius Report also posted on 23 December that “one of our very connected sources let us know that they’ve heard very solid information about Apple’s upcoming tablet… our connect said there is 100 [percent] a 7″ Apple tablet, to be announced in January.” Boy Genius emphasised that the source had “been amazingly accurate for us in the past.”

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who has spent the past several months digging into the possibilities of an Apple tablet, recently estimated in a research note that there was a 75 percent likelihood that Apple would host an event in January, and a 50 percent chance that said event would be used to launch a tablet.

Despite the omnipresent rumours, Apple has followed its typical pattern in keeping any official pronouncements about a device tamped down. An 24 August report in The Wall Street Journal suggested that CEO Steve Jobs was devoting a substantial chunk of time to the creation of a tablet PC, which led to Jobs himself to email the newspaper that, “most of your information is incorrect.”

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Apple also filed a series of patents over the course of 2009, including one for a touch screen that can be manipulated with the fingers of both hands as well as the palms, that many conjectured were ultimately for the technology behind a tablet.

Gene Munster has suggested in previous notes that the tablet could be based off the iPhone OS, with apps designed for a larger screen, or else a modified version of the Mac OS X. Oppenheimer & Co. financial analyst Yair Reiner suggested in a 8 December research note that the tablet would be released in late March or April, and include a 10.1-inch touch screen; in addition, Reiner cited unnamed sources as telling him that “Apple is approaching book publishers with a very attractive proposal for distributing their content.”

Apple may also integrate 3G wireless into the device, these and other analysts have theorised, which potentially opens the door to a deal between Apple and a wireless carrier. While AT&T currently supports the iPhone, recent criticism of its network could potentially lead Apple to back a rival such as Verizon. Analyst guesses as to a tablet retail price have generally ranged from $500 (£444) to nearly $2,000 (£1,776), before the cost of a potential data plan is factored in.

But until Apple makes an official announcement, all this remains conjecture.

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