In an unexpected twist to begin the day on Thursday, technology news agencies began reporting that Facebook may be working on a brand new mobile application platform to challenge Apple’s App Store.
Code named “Project Spartan,” the top secret undertaking poises Facebook to take on Apple’s dominance in its own self-created bubble. Rather than focusing on distribution through traditional channels – namely, the App Store – Facebook’s application tools would be accessed directly through Safari on iPad and iPhone devices. This limits the amount of control Apple has over the system, freeing Facebook to market applications more freely.
Reports indicate that work on Project Spartan has already been underway for several months by third-party developers who want to be on-board from the very start. In fact, a limited release of the service may even be ready for users as soon as the next few weeks. Any such showing is less likely to be a full-fledged launch, but more a clear challenge to Apple, illustrating to the company and
Facebook’s 700 million users that they are prepared to market applications to Apple products – directly.
For a company that has already seen its mobile domination decimated by new competitors like Google, such an assault could spell big trouble for Apple. While it has always been a company to favor in-house creation of products over open, third-party relationships, Apple’s control over the app market on its still popular devices afforded them a few advantages in the market. If monsters like Facebook get a grip on their products, that slim advantage could quickly fade away.
News about Project Spartan comes on the heels of a new partnership between Twitter and Apple regarding integration of the social tool into iOS 5. As most people had thought Facebook a more likely candidate until the moment of the announcement last week, questions are now raised about the relevance of Project Spartan in that decision. While originally seen as a snub to Facebook by Apple, perhaps the social networking giant had better cards in their hand than spectators thought.
The rumors today came amid other stunning revelations about Facebook’s upcoming photo application for the iPhone. Currently in its final stages of development, some tech news agencies report the standalone app is expected to be released in coming weeks. After its initial launch, it is likely that the application may wind up featured as a component of Facebook’s primary iPhone app – although only time can prove that claim.
It is difficult to identify the source of the information flying around these topics, although it does appear that many of them may be valid. Images and documents were released to some websites outlining the new photo app, and murmurs have been rumbling about the possibility of Facebook directly challenging Apple’s hold on its products. It may be that such leaks are intended to create a buzz around the new products which will challenge long-time leaders in their areas. Public announcements regarding both products are expected in the coming days. Hearing it from Facebook’s own mouth and watching Apple’s reaction may be telling in understanding the full implication of the claims.
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