One of the most impressive DEMOs I’d seen at DEMO last year was Skyfire’s. For those of us who have had smartphones with limited web browsing capabilities (like Pocket IE with Windows Mobile), Skyfire will forever change the way you use your smartphone. Today Skyfire announced that it has opened up its beta to all US residents.
Here’s a demo of Skyfire in action:
Skyfire is not a conventional mobile web browser, it’s more of an application that lets you view and consume web content. For example, the notion of having to install plugins for your browsers, like Silverlight or Flash doesn’t exist with Skyfire. When you launch Skyfire on your phone, you are logged in to their servers. A proxy sitting on Skyfire’s servers intercepts web traffic flowing to your device that is then Skyfire-optimized. Skyfire’s proxy servers are responsible for dealing with dynamic content on their end, and what you get is a stream of interactive and dynamic “images” and audio on your phone. You’re probably wondering, how can a cluttered and dynamic website, like Facebook for example, render on my tiny phone screen? One of my favorite features on Skyfire is the Zoom feature. You can selectively zoom in and zoom out of select portions of the web site.
A lot of articles that went out today talking about Skyfire’s announcement talk about the lack of a good browser on WinMo devices, unlike Safari for the iPhone. But something I’m curious about is how many iPhone users still actively use Safari? With the number of applications for the iPhone and over a 100 million installs of different applications in just the first couple of months, I can only imagine that the need for a Safari on the iPhone has diminished. Although Apple will likely not let Skyfire into their App Store, Skyfire will get plenty of traction from the other non-1% of the smartphones out there. While Apple’s App Store concept is innovative, it doesn’t exist for other smartphone ecosystems yet and we still rely heavily on the mobile browser.
The question then arises – what content can Skyfire not handle? I’ll be honest, I don’t know right now. There haven’t been webpages that I’ve wanted to visit that Skyfire hasn’t been able to handle. The only catch is that you’d have to have a phone number associated with your Skyfire account, you can’t just your WiFi card on your phone to get on the internet. And aside from that, the only other limitation is your handset itself – for me, I find it a little kludgy with my front rotary scroll wheel to navigate content.
Skyfire’s beta product definitely drains my phone’s battery life. I’ve noticed my Blackjack 2 heat up and lose battery life fairly quickly as I use sites like Imeem to stream and listen to Music. The one other thing I’d wary of is security – remember that Skyfire’s proxy servers stream the data coming from a website to your phone, and vice-versa.
Today, Skyfire supports Windows Mobile and Symbian devices. Crunchbase tells us that Skyfire has raised $17.8M in funding from Matrix Partners, Trinity Ventures and Lightspeed Ventures. Get Skyfire now!