Skyfire: BlackBerry development just not as good as Android

Popular third party mobile Web browser Skyfire posted an announcement last week that it would be opening up alpha testing for its forthcoming Webkit-based Android browser. Within one hour of making the announcement, over 3,000 people contacted Skyfire to get in on the test. The alpha team, unfortunately, is only going to be 30 testers.

So today, Skyfire's Jeff Glueck addressed the undoubtedly huge interest swelling around the new Skyfire product, and talked about why Android development has superseded development on the BlackBerry platform.

"We decided to place Android development ahead of Blackberry a few months ago," Glueck said. "We see Android as a fast-rising ecosystem, with a rich, totally open developer environment, a healthy app market and a healthy advertising and search ecosystem. The Android OS has a tremendous amount of interest from handset makers and carriers, and also has a strong need for making the explosion of video more network optimized (Skyfire's wheelhouse)."

By comparison, BlackBerry's developer environment is weak.

"The APIs are fragmented and inconsistent, and the Java virtual machine Blackberry requires is not efficient," Glueck remarked. "While Blackberry users are desperate for a better browser - we know, and we hear them - we only want to bring out something that meets our high standards and is truly great."

Besides, Research in Motion has been working on improving BlackBerry's browser since it acquired Torch Mobile in late 2009. When BlackBerry OS 6.0 comes out later this year, it is expected to have a new Webkit browser that is a result of this acquisition. At Mobile World Congress this year, RIM showed off an early version of this new browser that supports HTML5, CSS3, DOM L3, and server-side assistance for HTML and text which helps it score 100/100 on the famous Acid3 browser compliance test. It looks extremely promising.

"We understand it will be a long way from able to handle native Flash 10.1 and similar rich media plug-ins, and we think we can build on that webkit engine and add cloud-based new features around it," Glueck said. So it looks like Skyfire is waiting to see just how improved the new BlackBerry browser is going to be before it jumps back into development on Skyfire for BlackBerry.

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