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Skyfire brings Flash video to Android

Skyfire brings Flash video to Android

Skyfire 2.0 Beta for Android uses a cloud offload engine to transcode Flash video content - neat.

On the same day that Steve Jobs declares that Adobe's Flash is dead in the water, Skyfire launches a beta browser for Android that brings the technology to your smartphone.

Announced on the Skyfire Blog yesterday, the Skyfire 2.0 browser - currently available from the Android Marketplace in beta form - uses a series of neat tricks to enable Flash content on Android-based devices ahead of the official support due in Android 2.2.

While Skyfire is an impressive Webkit-based browser in its own right - featuring multi-touch functionality, the ability to switch between rendering sites as an Android browser, an iPhone browser, and a desktop browser, and up to eight tabs - it's the new SkyBar technology that is particularly interesting.

SkyBar acts as a cloud offload engine, performing processor intensive graphics and video rescaling and conversion on Skyfire's remote servers rather than locally - something that both increases performance and battery life and also allows Android devices to play back content that would otherwise be unavailable.

While the SkyBar toolbar is currently only active for Flash video content - which is transcoded and scaled remotely and played back smoothly on your Android device - the company promises to introduce support for Microsoft's rival Silverlight format along with Windows Media and Quicktime video files in future releases.

Sadly, the SkyBar only supports video content: interactive Flash content such as games won't work, with Skyfire's Jeff Glueck explaining that "we think there’s a quite healthy ecosystem of native games and applications on mobile, and the response times for a game that users expect don’t work well with the latency of cellular networks."

A quick test of the software on a Motorola Milestone running Android 2.0.1 reveals a smooth experience, although the user interface could do with some work: despite having support for the Milestone's multi-touch display and using the pinch-to-zoom gesture popularised by Apple's iPhone, a pair of zoom buttons make themselves known during scrolling or zooming operations. Despite this, it's a fast browser and responds well - and the ability to view the special Android-only versions of Google sites include Docs and Reader is a welcome bonus.

Skyfire 2.0 Beta is available from the Android Marketplace now in the UK, the US, and Canada - and, unlike Mozilla's recent Fennec pre-alpha supports all Android devices running version 1.5 or above.

Does the thought of Flash video content on your Android device fill you with joy, or will Skyfire's efforts come to nought once Android 2.2 brings native Flash support - despite the promise of 70 percent reduction in data transferred as a result of the transcoding technology? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

15 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
l3v1ck 30th April 2010, 13:57 Quote
Can you upgrade current Android 2.1 phones to Android 2.2?
freedom810 30th April 2010, 14:08 Quote
I just want a htc hero firmware upgrade :(
Comet 30th April 2010, 14:24 Quote
Well, obviously the upcoming native flash support should provide a better experience when it comes to Flash based content. And I'm sure Skyfire will provide full Flash support when the flash plugin is avaiable on the android platform. But as you put it, the interesting thing in Skyfire browser is the ability to detect and transcode video on a web page to a device supported format. And this opens the window to video that would otherwise be unavailable on the platform. Unfortunatly the mobile world is still fragmented with no device that can provide the full desktop browser experience on the phone. Add to the fact that unfortunatly there is in my opinion a stupid format war on mobile devices with Apple closing support for almost any kind of outside format and also that competitors usualy delay plugin support for competitive platforms for ages, thus surfing the web ends up becoming like walking in a labyrith with dead-ends everywhere. "sorry no flash. sorry no quicktime or no silverlight, or no xvid or ogg" and so on.
And sorry but no. HTML5 is not the solution to all problems. Why? Because it takes ages to add a format to the list of supported video formats in HTML5 vide tag. Imagine if companies had to wait for the W3C to aprove the release of a new and better video codec. And thats the thing.
HTML5 video support is great because it allows content builders to have a baseline on what a user can run. But obviously some companies will want to grab user attention by using new technologies. Thats where Skyfire method may be useful. In worst case scenarios (like we have today) where there is no support for a certain video content on your platform, they'll do the job and give you at least a close version of the content.
zimbloggy 30th April 2010, 15:02 Quote
Does this work with hulu? If there is a phone that plays hulu videos, that's reason enough to get one over the iphone.
Leitchy 30th April 2010, 17:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by freedom810
I just want a htc hero firmware upgrade :(

I just rooted my Hero on UK Orange, sick of HTC not publishing proper dates and now using one of the many custom roms with 2.1 (and 2.2 once I've read into it).
nitrous9200 30th April 2010, 21:12 Quote
Yawn. Had this on WinMo for months (years maybe). Works fairly well esp. for Flash but the UI is not great and looking at web pages looks like a highly compressed JPEG photo.
DriftCarl 1st May 2010, 00:55 Quote
its a bit fiddly on my htc desire, not as good as skyfire on my old N96
bbc news live wont work, and all videos seem to want to load in a "new window" rather than on the web page itself.
uninstalled, ill wait for native support in 2.2
rickysio 1st May 2010, 04:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Comet
Unfortunatly the mobile world is still fragmented with no device that can provide the full desktop browser experience on the phone. Add to the fact that unfortunatly there is in my opinion a stupid format war on mobile devices with Apple closing support for almost any kind of outside format and also that competitors usualy delay plugin support for competitive platforms for ages, thus surfing the web ends up becoming like walking in a labyrith with dead-ends everywhere. "sorry no flash. sorry no quicktime or no silverlight, or no xvid or ogg" and so on.

Seriously, the N900. It can run a (full desktop) Linux distro (Easy Debian) smoothly (Even GIMP runs fine), which implies very good things.
Lemmingzappa 1st May 2010, 12:57 Quote
Good news !
Cupboard 1st May 2010, 13:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Article
a pair of zoom buttons make themselves known during scrolling or zooming operations.

You can turn them off in the options
Quote:
Originally Posted by nitrous9200
Yawn. Had this on WinMo for months (years maybe). Works fairly well esp. for Flash but the UI is not great and looking at web pages looks like a highly compressed JPEG photo.

Skyfire is better in Android than the one I used on WinMo. On WinMo, the page it rendered on their servers then shipped to you, so embedded Flash works but the whole thing is a bit crap.

Skyfire on Android feels like a native browser on the device but when they detect a video, they transcode it and push it to you.

edit: oh, and yes the N900 is pretty awesome. But there are some cool Googley things it can't do
Gareth Halfacree 1st May 2010, 13:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cupboard
Quote:
Originally Posted by Article
a pair of zoom buttons make themselves known during scrolling or zooming operations.
You can turn them off in the options
Ooh, didn't spot that - cheers.
rickysio 1st May 2010, 15:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cupboard
edit: oh, and yes the N900 is pretty awesome. But there are some cool Googley things it can't do

Indeed, yes, but that's because which company will support the competition?

However, I DO question how these companies manage to stay afloat. Computational time and server bandwidth is certainly not free - how in the blue blazes are they surviving? Hopefully Skyfire will survive long enough to see all handhelds possessing sufficient hardware grunt to render ALL flash videos and ALL games, though!

Or when Duke Flash 10.1 Forever is released.
oatey4519 2nd May 2010, 14:42 Quote
put this on my HTC Desire and it really looked good.
But then it just didn't seem slick enough and videos didn't want to load
Back to standard browser.. which is very good anyway
fabler 4th May 2010, 06:37 Quote
Good News. And I've N1.. will get the native flash update and froyo soon..
HourBeforeDawn 4th May 2010, 17:49 Quote
ya when I tried this on my coworkers phone it took forever to load a video and we had full 3g bars and everything, just to make sure it wasnt the network I took my palm pre plus turned on its mobile router feature and used a desktop to pull the same video over the same network and it loaded in a snap but still a cool idea but I dont think it will be to much longer before 10.1 is released anyways.
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