Editors' note: Since this article published, Skyfire has offered the first hundred CNET readers immediate access to Skyfire's Symbian beta program. (Note: Only U.S. phones at this time.) Enter the promo code CNET100 in the sign-up page. Once you have signed up for the Skyfire Symbian Beta with the beta code, an SMS message will be sent to your mobile phone prompting you to create a password. Once you enter a password, you will be presented with a download link.
Skyfire is positioned as a resource-light Web browser that relies on Web servers to deliver a desktop browsing experience. I covered Skyfire soon after its initial Windows Mobile release and agree that it has a nice design and good potential; however, with rendering and crashing issues, it's not nearly ready for open beta. That's too bad because adding an identical build for Symbian means that Skyfire has two platforms in private beta with some tall performance hurdles to leap.
Going global (and taking on Opera) Skyfire's Symbian beta program is the mobile browser's second platform, and its entree into the European market, where it will be rolling out later this year. This move improves Skyfire's competitive position against Opera Mobile, whose release of a free version 9.5 beta for Symbian is also scheduled for "the near future."
Opera Mini, Opera Software's build for Java phones and BlackBerry, has pretty much dominated alternative browsers in Europe, but Skyfire could destabilize that position. As a direct competitor to Opera Mobile 8.65, which sells for $24, Skyfire's free beta brings a few advantages to the table. It's true that Opera Mobile 9.5 beta is also currently offered for free, but with its Symbian build also in development, there could be an interesting battle over Symbian owners.
Pricing isn't the only point of comparison between Opera and Skyfire. Opera wants to bring Symbian owners the "authentic" desktop experience through a rich client and Skyfire will attempt to do so by pulling data from its servers. That makes Skyfire lighter on system resources, but it won't have as many search and linking capabilities out of the gate as Opera Mobile 9.5 beta, which integrated some tricks from the desktop browser. Conversely, Opera's cell phone browsers verge on cluttered, so there's a benefit to Skyfire's pared-down look.… Read more