December 23, 2010
Earlier this year, Apple approved the Skyfire browser for the iPhone. The browser created such high demand, that it was pulled from the App Store for a while. So far, in its first 24 hours of availability, Skyfire for the iPad hasn't created the same firestorm of demand.
Using Skyfire, iPad users will be able to watch Flash content on Web sites, even though Skyfire doesn't run Flash. Its proxy-based system decodes Flash into HTML5 on the fly and then delivers the content to the iPad. In addition, Skyfire comes with native support for social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Apple has famously -- or infamously -- prevented native Flash support on the iPhone. None of its "i" devices can access and run Flash content directly. This often leaves some web content unavailable to iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users. Skyfire boasts a lot of features beyond Flash for the iPad. It includes sharing to Facebook, Twitter, RSS and other social media services; an intuitive user interface; the ability to load full desktop web pages on the tablet; multitab browsing (up to eight windows at a time); and much more. Skyfire is sure to warn users that the browser doesn't support Flash games or Flash applications -- it only supports Flash video. (It doesn't support Hulu because Hulu doesn't allow it.) So, how does it work in the real world? The application costs $4.99 to download. I installed it on my iPad and it works very well. I was able to scan several web sites -- including YouTube -- and see the embedded Flash content without jumping to a dedicated application. As with the iPhone version, it's not exactly light on its feet, though. Videos some times take a while to load. And by "a while" I mean more than a minute. It looks good, though, and otherwise appears to function properly. I tested it side-by-side against the iPhone version of Skyfire, and Skyfire for the iPad has made some improvements in terms of speed and overall web site rendering. Due to the larger real estate available to the browser, web sites look more like their desktop form. Is it worth $4.99? That's a hard call to make. It's not exactly a costly app, but $4.99 is just out of impulse purchase range. I'd say if you frequently visit web sites with Flash content, then it could be worth the money to see more of that Flash content.
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