There are two browser alternatives out there watching the Apple iPhone OS ecosystem closely, and those include Skyfire–a staple on many Windows Mobile handsets today–and a newcomer called RipCode. With the approval of Opera Mini for the iPhone–video demo of Opera Mini below shown by Thomas Ford from the Opera team–browser rival Skyfire has its hopes set on bringing their version of the browser to the iPhone.
For the uninitiated, Skyfire renders Flash files on its servers and then pushes that content to the mobile client, which is installed on the mobile handset. In this manner, Flash support on the native browser becomes a non-issue and users can use Skyfire to render Flash videos, advertising, and games. Recently, Skyfire even added support for Hulu video playback.
According to Skyfire, “The Skyfire team has been watching the Opera submission and the iPhone/iPad market closely, and this will certainly accelerate our strategy on iDevices. Nothing to announce now, but stay tuned for news. If you want to stay updated, please follow Skyfire on Facebook or Twitter and be the first to hear.” The company is using Apple’s recent approval of the Opera Mini client as hope for its own browser strategy. Although Opera Mini doesn’t render Flash, the browser compresses webpages as a a compressed file and then sends the compressed file to the client on the iPhone. This way, pages come up as being rendered faster than native browsers, like mobile Safari on the iPhone. The move, deemed controversial and could be “duplicative” of the functions of the iPhone, could have teetered on Apple not approving Opera, but fortunately the Cupertino, California company gave Opera the green light and the app is available in the App Store right now.
Similarly, transcoding company RipCode hopes to add a transcoding layer between the cloud and the device to allow Flash-based content to run on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch on native Safari. According to Gizmodo, “TransAct Transcoder V6 requires no special clients or modifications to host sites. Rather, RipCode will transcode simple Flash content like Hulu clips in the cloud to an iPad-friendly codec, providing a transparent fix to the Flash-less iPad.” Further, this situation is completely legitimate with the Apple terms, unless Apple goes out and closes the loophole. Gizmodo says, “Of course, two things need to happen for RipCode to be successful: Individual siites needs to adopt the technology (even if it requires no special site recoding), and Apple needs to turn a blind eye to the loophole (lest they seal it shut through a firmware update).”
This way, companies wouldn’t run the risk of upsetting Apple and the transcoding with RipCode or Skyfire could buy websites time before adopting HTML5, which is supported by Apple on their touchscreen products. Apple is now embittered in a heated war with Adobe, both on the abandonment of Flash as a browser plugin and on Adobe trying to create an environment that fosters multi-platform app development. RidCope and Skyfire could come in as a buffer in this war and still deliver Flash-based content to users, if Apple approves.