We’ve talked about Skyfire last year when they were in private beta. Skyfire 0.8 is a free web browser (still in beta) for mobile phones that provides a full desktop experience. I know, you’ve heard that before, but let me explain how Skyfire works.
With Skyfire, before the web content reaches your mobile phone (html, video, music…), it is processed by a web server (a PC) that shrinks the content and reformats it before sending it to the phone. In the most basic simplification, you could think of it as a “remote desktop” for mobile browsing.
Today, “server-assisted” mobile browsing is fundamentally better in a many ways: it can provide a full desktop browsing experience, because it really runs on a desktop PC! Secondly, it is compatible with *everything*, out of the box! Flash, Silverlight, Quicktime, Windows Media Player, Real Media. You name it. The other huge advantage is that there are less http requests (a couple?) when compared to loading an average page (50-100 requests isn’t abnormal). Each request introduces some latency (250ms with 3G) and therefore slows down the page loading. By generating less wireless requests, Skyfire has a natural edge over competitors that are not server-assisted.
Skyfire works amazingly well: pages load quickly, and it is even fast enough to watch video decently. I did not have an iPhone on hand, but I bet that Skyfire is faster most of the time. To be able to read text, you can select a portion of the page and zoom. You can simply select the zoom level and scroll in the page, or you can select a “block” of content and zoom right in. It works well, because web pages tend to be split in logical blocks.
Now that the beta has gone public, everyone can register and download Skyfire. However, right now it works only on Windows Mobile. The Symbian S60 version should follow shortly. At this point there is no Blackberry version on the horizon.
The informal demo that we got a few weeks ago was just amazing. At that time, I was kicking myself for using a Blackberry. I tried a few sites, including the full desktop version of our publishing back-end and our hosting admin interface, and I could really get stuff done. Skyfire alone would be a good reason for me to go back to Windows Mobile. If you try it, drop a comment below and share your thoughts.