Skyfire 0.8 Beta Open to All

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Since January of last year, there’s been a fair bit of buzz in the Windows Mobile community over Skyfire, a Web browser being developed for Windows Mobile phones that promises to bring the PC browsing experience—you know, with full HTML rendering, support for plug-ins like Flash, QuickTime, and Windows Media, and Web 2.0 applications—to mobile devices. But the buzz has been limited because comparatively few people have been able to set their hands on private beta releases of Skyfire: beta registration was limited, and just because you got into one beta didn’t mean you’d get into the next. Users found themselves on waiting lists.

Now, Skyfire has announced that registration for the 0.8 beta of the Skyfire browser is open to everyone, and promises that the new 0.8 version improves browsing and performance. “Leaving private beta is a huge step for us,” said Skyfire CEO and co-founder Nitin Bhandari, in a statement. “We have accomplished our goals of the private beta—launch, listen, improve. Demand for Skyfire has been extremely strong and we are excited to bring this more evolved product to more devices and users.”

The Skyfire browser operates on Windows Mobile smartphones (currently WiMo PDAs aren’t supported yet: you need a phone number), and really wants to be a full featured Web browser that just happens to run on mobile devices. That means support for Ajax and Web 2.0 technologies, along with plug-ins like Flash, QuickTime, Windows Media, and Silverlight. Skyfire features a “Super Bar” that combines URL entry and search, the ability to send a Web page to anyone in an address book via text message. The 0.8 beta promised better video quality, improved zooming, in-line text entry, the ability to download content.

Skyfire says a version of the browser will be coming soon for Symbian devices, and the BlackBerry platform is a high priority for them. As for the Apple iPhone…well, it already ships with Mobile Safari, and Apple seems to be burning bridges with iPhone developers whose applications come near Apple’s default programs…and, perhaps, that Apple just doesn’t like.

Skyfire 0.8 beta is available now as a free download for Windows Mobile 5 or 6 smartphones; users are required to register before downloading the beta.


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