Skyfire browser brings Flash to iPad

Skyfire for iPad plays back Flash video content on a Flash-unfriendly iPad. Here's how it differs from the iPhone app, and if it's worth the $5 price tag.

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Skyfire on iPad
Skyfire browser on iPad Skyfire

Flash video on an iPad browser? You betcha. Skyfire has spent months creating browsers for iPhone and iPad that play back Flash video on the notoriously Flash-blocking devices. Skyfire for iPad is now available in the App Store for $4.99.

The app follows the same path as its iPhone cousin in being able to play Flash video. The company uses a workaround that routes video requests through their own servers. They then push those videos through the browser. It's not elegant, but it is usually successful.

Apart from Flash playback, which operates the same way on smaller iOS devices, Skyfire's iPad version is differentiated in ways that complement the iPad's 10-inch screen. There are "QuickView" buttons for accessing your Facebook and Twitter streams, plus a similar feature that brings you Google Reader content. The Fireplace Feed Reader filters your Facebook feed just to show multimedia like links, videos, and pictures. Also on the social spectrum is the Facebook "like" button that Skyfire stamps on every Web page.

Skyfire, iPhone
Skyfire's had to temporarily pull its iPhone browser right after launch. Skyfire

Back on the browsing side, Skyfire for iPad also includes a list of stories that are popular with your Facebook friends and the wider Facebook community. Flash is still the browser's biggest draw, and the most compelling reason Skyfire can ask for cash.

Two questions always surface in discussion about Skyfire and Flash. First, can Skyfire handle the bandwidth? Second, does the iPad really need Flash support?

The answer to the first question is of the "wait and see" variety. Skyfire's bandwidth took a nose dive after just five hours after the iPhone app went live in the App Store. Skyfire engineers spent the following several days increasing bandwidth, and the app re-entered the market. Let's hope for everyone's sake that they've anticipated the iPad demand.

As for the second question, Skyfire's revelation that it grossed over a million dollars on the iPhone app in just a few days speaks to consumer demand. However, it's important to note that the demand isn't for Flash, per se. It's for access to Web content that's been programmed in Flash. Skyfire's video playback isn't as seamless or robust as an integrated solution, and there's still plenty that Skyfire won't do.

When content providers start making a move to new or different technologies, perhaps HTML 5 or Google's Web M video standard, Skyfire will have to look for a new angle for distributing--or at least selling--its browser on iOS.

CNET's Josh Lowensohn also took a close look at Frash, another iOS workaround, to see where it prevailed and where it fell short. In the meantime, you can watch Skyfire's iPad demo video below to see it in action. If you're an iPad user, chime in. What do you think of Skyfire for iPad--would you buy it? If you did, do you like it?