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DEMO Update: Skyfire Debuts New Mobile Browser

With all the transformation occurring in the mobile and wireless market -- with powerful new devices and established mobile browsers jostling for users' attention -- it's an interesting time for a new mobile browser to appear. That's what happened today at Demo.
With all the transformation occurring in the mobile and wireless market -- with powerful new devices and established mobile browsers jostling for users' attention -- it's an interesting time for a new mobile browser to appear. That's what happened today at Demo.Mountain View, Calif.-based Skyfire launched the private beta of its new mobile browser this morning with a compelling demonstration that compared the performance of the Skyfire browser with the mobile version of Internet Explorer (on a Windows Mobile device), with Opera Mini (on a N95), and with the iPhone from Apple. To say that those systems didn't stack up is an understatement; you never know to what degree such demos are rigged, but assuming this was a straight-up comparison it was quite convincing: while the Skyfire browser displayed a photo slideshow from the wedding of a friend of CEO Nitin Bhandari, the other devices either failed to load the Web page or just displayed a "black screen of death."

"Now you can get the full PC Web on your phone," said Bhandari. "Every site, every application, and every video."

Skyfire accomplishes this, CTO Erik Swenson told me afterward, through a client-server architecture that uses a proprietary, patent-pending protocol to "crunch the data" (essentially, compress the HTML into a form that makes it easier to send and display, without losing any of the richness of the content).

"What RIM does for mobile e-mail, we do for the Web," Swenson explained.

As smartphones become more Web-enabled, I'm not sure of the long-term potential for the Skyfire browser. But it'll be interesting to see how the carriers react to a program that gives people instant access, over virtually any device, to the full riches of the Web.