Last week, the Skyfire mobile browser brought Flash (s adbe) to iOS (s aapl), albeit imperfectly. Crushing demand on its servers caused Skyfire to pull the app from the iTunes store, but not before it sold well. Very well — Skyfire managed to make almost $1 million in its first weekend available for sale.
Skyfire cost users $2.99 to download on the iPhone, even though the browser is available for free on other platforms. When it was initially made available in the App Store, it was downloaded more than 300,000 times by users anxious to get Flash access on their devices. I was one of them, and I wasn’t all that impressed with the experience Skyfire provided.
According to MobileCrunch, Skyfire’s take was between $600,000 and $700,000, after Apple’s 30 percent cut. That’s pretty good for an app that was only available for a few hours before it was pulled due to strain on Skyfire’s servers, which handle the conversion of Flash elements to HTML5, then beam that back to user devices. The browser is now being released in batches, so that Skyfire can better scale its back end to keep up with demand.
Steve Jobs has famously insisted that Flash will never appear natively on iOS devices. The reasons include resource management and power demands, among others, and while Jobs may be right that Flash isn’t all that great, or even necessary, it looks like the average user has yet to come around to his way of thinking. Skyfire’s success shows there’s still strong demand for Flash access on the iPhone, and no doubt if an iPad version arrives, we’ll see similar results.
But what’s driving demand? Skyfire doesn’t allow users to play Flash games, so that’s out, but it does offer access to lots of U.S. streaming TV video content, including The Daily Show and South Park. I think that’s where the real interest is coming from. Despite the fact that many sites are now offering video in both HTML5 and Flash format to ensure a uniform experience across devices, some of the last to act have been television networks, which provide content the average user wants to be able to watch.
Flash may be on its way out in the grand scheme of things, but for the time being, it still has the support of the average user. That’ll likely remain the case, too, at least until networks and network partners like Hulu opt to use something else instead.
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