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Startup Skyfire on Monday introduced a mobile browser that can display Web sites built using any Web technology, making the experience on a mobile phone very similar to the desktop.
The free, downloadable browser is currently being offered as a private beta for smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system. Skyfire said it will roll out versions for Symbian smartphones in the coming months and for other platforms thereafter. It will work on both touch screen and non-touch screen phones.
Meanwhile, Skyfire is previewing its browser at the Demo conference in Palm Desert, Calif., this week.
Skyfire's browser serves up Web pages created using dynamic Flash, advanced Ajax, and Java on mobile phones, so users can interact with the pages the same way they would on a desktop computer, according to the company. For example, a person can access the full YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace sites and use all the features instead of getting stripped-down mobile versions of the sites. They also can listen to any Internet-based music service, such as Last.fm.
"For too long, consumers have been promised the 'real Web' on their phone, only to be disappointed by slow rendering, error messages, no Flash support, watered down WAP pages, or second-rate mobile versions of their favorite site. Skyfire has remedied those ills at a speed not seen before on the mobile platform." said Nitin Bhandari, Skyfire's CEO, in a statement.
Skyfire claims its mobile browser loads content faster than any of the others offered on the market. Additionally, it provides a user interface that allows full screen navigation, thumbnail views, and zooming to make it easier to resize content and have it fit nicely on a phone's screen.
But Skyfire isn't the first company to come up with a zooming technique for a better user experience. Apple's touch-screen technology lets users zoom in and out of Web pages on the iPhone and the iPod touch using their fingers. Nokia's 8 GB N95 smartphone comes with a Web browser that lets a user zoom in or out of a page with a single key press.
Another startup, called Zumobi, in December started offering a beta software interface that allows users to zoom in on and enlarge content on Web sites accessed though mobile browsers. The startup uses technology called Zooming User Interface, developed and patented by Microsoft, to make that possible.
Opera Software, a provider of Web technologies for mobile devices, in November released the latest version of its mobile browser that enables users to access the content they want by using a zoom feature. Opera Software also has designed its free, downloadable browser so that it works on all types of mobile phones.
Then there's Mozilla, which is due to release a version of Mobile Firefox that can run Firefox extensions on mobile devices. Developers will be able to build rich applications for Mobile Firefox using extensible user-interface language (XUL), a markup language based on XML.
There's plenty of competition out there for Skyfire. Mobile Web browsers are finally improving, which is a welcome change for smartphone and cell phone users.