Facebook crafts an iPad app

"Project Spartan" is no Trojan, just an HTML 5 view of Facebook optimized for iOS.

Facebook plans to release an iPad app in the coming weeks featuring a "slick design," new Facebook Chat and Groups functionality, and an "amazing" photo and video experience, according to reports.

The news comes on the heels of another report that Facebook is prepping an HTML 5 web app for iOS devices. Also, Facebook is reportedly working on a new website optimized for the iPad. But Facebook's refreshed site is only meant to be a "supplement" to, and not a replacement for, Facebook's iOS apps, according to The New York Times.

The iPad App

Despite having a popular app for the iPhone, Facebook has yet to produce a version for the iPad. Instead, iPad users have been forced to turn to third-party apps such as Friendly, MyPad and Facely HD or be satisfied with Facebook's regular website.

But that's all about to change if the latest rumors are correct. Facebook's purported new iPad app has been more than a year in the making, according to The Times. Company CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly deeply involved with its design and feature set. The new app will let you do things you'd expect such as upload photos and video directly in the app. The photos and videos will also be displayed as a full screen view and at full resolution, The Times says. The new iPad app is expected to be free, just as all of Facebook's mobile apps are.

Spartan is No Trojan

Sources have also told The Times that Facebook is working on an HTML 5 version of the site optimized for the iPad. But, the anonymous sources stressed, the new site is not meant to compete with Facebook's iOS applications available in the App Store. Instead, the new sites are a "supplement" to the native apps.

Those comments appear to be a direct stab at an earlier TechCrunch report that says Facebook is working on an HTML 5 site optimized for iOS devices. Facebook's plan, TechCrunch says, is to use the new site as a tool to "break the stranglehold [Apple has] on mobile app distribution."

Dubbed Project Spartan, Facebook's iOS-optimized site would give the company greater control over the user experience on iOS devices than would be possible if the company had to comply with Apple's app submission guidelines.

Project Spartan would reportedly turn Facebook's iOS-optimized website into a virtual mobile platform where users could use third-party apps through Facebook such as games and news reading apps. The new site would also rely on the use of Facebook Credits -- Apple does not allow third-party in-app purchase solutions in iOS apps. In other words, Spartan would try to compete with and circumvent Apple's third-party app model.

But now, a day after the Project Spartan claims hit, a new story appears talking about Facebook's alleged iPad app and a supplemental HTML 5 website optimized for iOS devices.

With all the rumors flying around, we can likely expect to see something new for Facebook's iPad users in the near future. But with two competing claims about what Facebook has planned, it's unclear what those new products will look like.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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