Yes, Despite All The HTML5 Talk (And Action), Facebook Is Finally Doing An iPad App

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The leaking of Facebook continues. Following our stories yesterday about their new Photos mobile app and “Project Spartan” (a new mobile app platform), Nick Bilton of The New York Times reports that Facebook will soon release an iPad app. Yes, finally.

We had also heard in recent weeks that despite Facebook’s seemingly anti-iPad stance, such an app does exist internally, and has for some time. But we hadn’t been able to find anyone who had actually seen it. Well, until right now. We can now confirm the app’s existence with someone who has actually seen it.

“It looks pretty slick. Photos are fullscreen & really nice UI,” says a person who has played with the app.

I’ve long complained about Facebook’s lack of an iPad app. While their regular site works pretty well on the iPad, even Facebook CTO Bret Taylor recognized the need for a UI more custom-tailored for big touch screens.

More importantly, third-party Facebook apps have been flying off the virtual shelves since day one of the iPad (including a few that have tricked people into thinking they were official apps). Facebook needed to get on top of this situation, to ensure that they own their own brand on the device, not some third party. And now they are.

We have not heard a specific date the app will be released, but NYT says that it will hit the App Store in the “coming weeks”.

One interesting tidbit we did hear was that the app has been done for some time, but that Facebook may have been holding it back as a bit of leverage over Apple. Those two companies have been in the news a bunch recently following Apple’s inclusion of Twitter in iOS 5, despite talking about a similar deal with Facebook previously.

And then there was our story yesterday about Project Spartan. We heard (and have seen) indications that Facebook was targeting mobile Safari with the mobile platform. HTML5-based apps as well as Facebook Credits are the key parts of the plan.

Since our story, Facebook PR has gone on the offensive, trying to spin this to other journalists as not being a move against Apple, but rather a way to “complement” their devices (while at the same time declining to admit the project even exists — heh). That’s a bunch of horseshit, and they know it.

But honestly, does anyone expect them to say anything else? It’s not like they’re going to declare war on Apple (or anyone else) publicly. You don’t announce to someone that you’re going to punch them in the face before you punch them in the face. That would be madness. (Madness?! This. Is. Sparta[n]!)

Again, developers actually working on this new platform say it’s very clear that Project Spartan is step one in an attempt to gain control over the mobile space. That means getting on the devices currently controlled by Apple and Google, and doing so without fear of restrictions (hence, HTML5). And it means disrupting the current mobile distribution channels (App Store, Android Market, etc) which are controlled by the gatekeepers. Facebook has to do this because they do not have their own devices. At least not yet.

But now we’re getting too far into the weeds. I’m just happy Facebook is finally releasing an iPad app. Send pics if you got em!