Mobile browser company Skyfire has submitted a mobile browser to Apple’s App Store which it says is “capable of playing Flash video while adhering to all Apple’s guidelines regarding HTML5 open-video standards on Apple devices”. The move is significant as it would enable iPhone owners to view Flash content on their devices for the first time – as long as the app passes Apple’s notoriously idiosyncratic approvals process. Rather than enabling Flash, the browser will translate videos into Apple-supported standards – Skyfire says it has been “built in tight accordance to Apple guidelines, including the use of a WebKit browser core shared with Safari, and h.264 adaptive streaming”. It may also prove appealing to network operators – the developer says that it compresses video data by an average of 75 percent, reducing buffer time, enhancing battery life and easing network congestion.
The biggest stumbling block could be that Apple has previously declined to offer apps via the App Store which duplicate iPhone core functionality, which is clearly the case for Skyfire – especially as it uses the same WebKit core used by Safari. Arguably, the fact that it can display Flash video means that it is not simply duplicating functions, however, by also delivering enhanced features to users. There may be something of a precedent in Skyfire’s favour: Apple is offering Opera Software’s Opera Mini browser via the App Store, with the proxy server architecture used in this product differentiating it from the straight HTML browsing offered by Safari, and some reports state that Skyfire also uses a proxy server to process video content. The completion of Skyfire 2.0 for iPhone follows the launch of a version for Android, which has “now become one of the most popular third-party browsers on Google’s platform, with nearly a million downloads in its first three months”; previous-generation Symbian and Windows Mobile versions have also been offered.