No words can stress how much we're sick of Apple 'iSlate' rumors right now, but when someone with powerful links speaks up, we gotta take note. Kai-fu Lee -- former Google China president -- has joined the Apple rumor mill by leaking what he claims to be insider knowledge of the device. Now, we've heard a lot of this same noise before: sub-$1000 price, an iPhone-like appearance, 10.1-inch multitouch screen, video conferencing, cellular connectivity, 3D graphics and virtual keyboard. What really got our attention is Lee's link with Foxconn -- the Apple OEM is one of the main contributors to Lee's post-Google investment venture, Innovation Works, so there's a good chance that Lee's spoken to someone overlooking the manufacturing of a certain Apple device. Of course, we can't abide Lee's final proclamation that "Apple expects to produce near ten million units in the first year!" This is pretty bold considering Apple's only sold five million portable computers so far this year (and ten million was the number of iPods sold in Q3 2009 alone), but hey, who knows if Steve Jobs has already worked out a subsidizing plan with some carriers to lure us all?
On top of the list of specs and wild sales prediction, Lee also says "Steve Jobs will be introducing this product in January," which somewhat supports Fox News' insider claim (as relayed by a "source") that the January 26th event "will focus on the mobility space." Our pal Clayton Morris doesn't have much other info, but it all certainly lines up with rumors we've been hearing for the last few weeks.
Finally, remember the roundabout process that Apple seemingly went through in order to secure the "iSlate" trademark? Well, it seems that it worked well enough that the company decided to go through the whole rigmarole again for another name: "iGuide." That moniker was dug up by the folks at Mac Rumors, who once again discovered a little Delaware-based company, iGuide Media, LLC, that has no other trademarks and some pretty strong links to Apple -- namely, signatures from Apple Senior Trademark Specialist Regina Porter, and paperwork done by the same lawyer that handled the trademark for the iPhone. Interestingly, the name "iGuide" seems to cover more than just a device, with the trademark filing describing "computer hardware and computer software" that can be used for a whole host of media-related tasks (including gaming) -- it even goes so far as to describe "downloadable electronic publications" including books and magazines, which would at least line up with some earlier rumors. Also a possibility: Apple likes to have a lot of names. As usual, don't place any bets on the current round of chatter -- if we want to know for sure, we may just have to wait until Jobs does that "one more thing" thing.
Additional reporting by Don Melanson
Update: Kai-fu Lee has apparently emailed Bloomberg News claiming that he has "never discussed Apple's tablet products with anyone at Foxconn, or anyone at Apple." Well, it's not like he can say he did, right?