Facebook’s “awesome” announcement is set to be revealed in just a few hours time, but according to reports it won’t be the so-called Project Spartan intended to take on Apple’s iOS app dominance. In-browser Skype video calls are likely to be the big unveil this week, it’s believed, with TechCrunch‘s sources suggesting the Spartan charge won’t be made until sometime between July 15 (when Facebook is apparently pushing developers to be complete by) and August 1. However, those sources are also sharing some tidbits to further whet our appetites – and raise questions over just who Facebook’s target really is, Apple or Google.
The (supposedly somewhat modified, to protect sources) screenshots above show part of the Project Spartan interface, with the blue “chrome” bar at the top being the common wrapper that will pull all apps together. Those apps won’t necessarily be resident on Facebook’s servers, but the chrome bar will flag up notifications, call themes and generally act as the “glue” holding everything together.
However, there’s also more evidence that the rumored Facebook iPad app expected imminently could be more integrated with Project Spartan than previously believed. In fact, Facebook is tipped to be working alongside Apple on elements of HTML5 functionality that will affect both projects. “Perhaps it’s not war against Apple” one anonymous developer involved suggests, “maybe Apple is just going to ‘gift’ Facebook the share of their market (the HTML5 share) in exchange an alliance being formed whereby Apple get’s some exclusive access to Facebook’s 600 million-plus users and thereby cutting out Google.”
These shifting allegiances are all part of an attempt to grab dominance in the mobile space, especially when it comes to all-important caches of valuable user data. Yesterday we saw Facebook block a tool for extracting friend information so as to prevent users easily migrating to Google+, perhaps in part retaliation over Google yanking Facebook contact sync from the Nexus S; the social network has also been snubbed by Apple, which picked Twitter for its deep social network integration in iOS 5.
According to the sources, Facebook isn’t leaving anything to chance in its mobile drive. Persistent rumors of an official Facebook phone have again surfaced, with talks of the social network collaborating with Samsung for hardware as well as Pivotal Labs for software. Although some Android OEMs have attempted their own devices with Facebook integration – such as the HTC ChaCha – this would be an official device on which Facebook was unhampered by the limitations of either Apple or Google. When that device will launch, however, is unclear.