On the day that Apple CEO Steve Jobs published a letter explaining his reasoning for keeping Adobe Flash off the iPhone, a Silicon Valley start-up has launched the first Web browser for Android that can play Flash video.
Jobs makes it clear that he doesn't believe Flash technology is necessary on mobile devices. But Skyfire is taking a more pragmatic approach: transcoding Flash video into a non-proprietary format.
"You may hear Skyfire described as 'making Flash run' on mobile phones," explains Skyfire CEO Jeff Glueck in a blog post. "Yet with Skyfire 2.0, we're actually doing something distinct. We're translating Flash videos (and soon others like Silverlight and WindowsMedia and Quicktime) into a format easier on your phone: HTML5 video."
The irony here is that Google has gone out of its way to accommodate Flash, which will be baked into Google's Chrome browser and supported in the forthcoming 2.2 version of Android.
By providing a bridge to render Flash video in HTML5 -- as if it were a legacy product that needs to be supported until it disappears -- Skyfire may end up hastening the transition from Flash development to HTML5 development and undermining Google's support for Adobe.
The Skyfire 2.0 beta for Android won't allow users to play Flash games; its focus is Flash video.
The Skyfire browser includes a feature called the SkyBar, a navigation mechanism designed to provide easier access to the social Web.
The SkyBar will allow users to "repair" broken Flash video and rich-media content -- recognizable by those blue Lego-style block icons that appear on Web pages that can't be interpreted by the user's browser.
It provides an "Explore" icon to present related content. And it includes a "Share" icon for updating Facebook status messages and Twitter accounts.
Skyfire also makes a version of its browser for Windows Mobile and Nokia/Symbian.