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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Skyfire App Brings Flash to iPhone

By: Chloe Albanesius

Among the few drawbacks of Apple's iOS is its incompatibility with Adobe Flash. Video sites like YouTube and Hulu have gotten around this by creating standalone apps for the iPhone and iPad, but what if you just want to watch a video in a browser window? Until now you've been out of luck, but an app from Skyfire could change that.

Skyfire has been developing an app that brings Flash to the iPhone for several months now, but the app has reportedly received the seal of approval from Apple, and is set to hit the Apple App Store at 9am on Thursday morning for $2.99, according to CNN Money.

The app transcodes Flash content into HTML5 so it will play on your iPhone. In an October demo video (below), Jason Guesman, Skyfire's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said the app has been designed as a full-fledged Web browser. It includes an address bar, Google search box, and popular trending search terms.

The app embeds the Safari browser; if you click to a site with Flash video, you'll initially encounter a Flash error on the video you want to watch. But the "SkyBar" at the bottom of the screen analyzes the page and pops up a thumbnail of the requested video; click the thumbnail and the video will start to play after it's transcoded to HTML5.

Guesman also promised adaptive streaming, which will provide coverage in areas where the network connection is weak.

"Skyfire for iPhone was built in accordance with Apple guidelines, including the use of a WebKit browser core shared with Safari, and h.264 adaptive streaming," Skyfire said in an October blog post. "Skyfire enables Flash on Apple devices by transcoding video content into HTML5 on the fly from millions of web sites; it supports iOS devices via Apple's HTTP live streaming. Skyfire's famed cloud-computing technology also adapts video content based on connection strength, giving the user the best video experience that will play smoothly given their wireless network conditions at the time."

The SkyBar also includes an explore icon that will recommend other content based on the current Web site, as well as a share icon that lets users share on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail.

A Skyfire representative could not immediately confirm the App Store launch time.

The battle between Adobe and Apple over Flash on iOS has not been a private one. In the wake of the iPad announcement in January, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs reportedly told employees at a town hall meeting that Apple avoided Flash on the iPad because it is too buggy and HTML5 is the wave of the future. Adobe naturally disagreed.

Jobs took it one step further in April when he posted a note on the Apple Web site in which he called Flash closed, unstable, and antiquated. Adobe issued a rather subdued response, saying it will instead focus on Android development. Adobe chief technology officer Kevin Lynch later accused Apple of creating a walled garden of content.

Apple further irked Adobe in April when it released an updated version of its iPhone developer program license, which banned private APIs and required apps to be written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine. As a result, Adobe announced that it would no longer invest in iPhone-based Flash development. In September, Apple relaxed those rules and Adobe said it would resume development on Flash for the iPhone.