updated 12:50 am EST, Fri December 25, 2009
Tablet domain purchased but may not be used
(Updated with trademark info) Apple tonight was discovered through WHOIS records to have acquired the domain iSlate.com (currently inactive) two years ago. The company is known to have picked up the domain in 2007 and used the registrar MarkMonitor to keep the ownership secret. However, MacRumors has discovered that Apple's name was exposed for a few weeks until the identity was suppressed again.
The acquisition suggests that Apple has at least considered using the iSlate name for a product such as its rumored tablet. It's nonetheless an uncertain prospect as Apple is known to register domains out of speculation, choosing them to safeguard potential product names rather than as a sign it has committed to an actual product. Apple registered iPhone.org as early as December 1999, several years before it had even begun work on what would become the shipping iPhone.
Update: Apple is now believed to have filed for trademarks for "iSlate" in the US and Europe, possibly using a shell company in Delaware named Slate Computing for its US trademark. The front firm is described as producing computers, software, handhelds and other products that Apple makes, although none of Apple's goods are mentioned by name. TechCrunch notes the European trademark was filed by the same law firm as for Apple's MacBook trademark and with the same country (Trinidad & Tobago) in priority.
None of the new discoveries necessarily make it more likely that Apple will call any potential tablet the iSlate, though they hint at Apple showing added concern for the name beyond just a website registration.