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Skyfire For Android Enables (Some) Flash Video 69

Posted by timothy
from the not-your-grandma's-headline dept.
harrymcc writes "Skyfire, a browser formerly available only for Windows Mobile and Symbian, is releasing a beta for Android. The most notable feature: It can identify Flash video on Web pages and convert it to HTML5 and H.264 on the fly, so it'll play on Android phones. It doesn't support all video, and may be rendered somewhat superfluous when Adobe ships Flash Player 10.1 for Android — but it's an impressive trick."
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Skyfire For Android Enables (Some) Flash Video

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  • by zonky (1153039)
    Wow, that is bound to work well, battery wise.
    • by teh31337one (1590023) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @07:08PM (#32038406)
      It's not actually doing Flash video, it signals Skyfire's servers to fetch the video and transcode it from its original format to HTML 5 video. http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20003714-1.html [cnet.com]
      • by Fnkmaster (89084)

        This is a pretty obvious thing to do, no? I mean, a quick Google will pull up one liner scripts using mencoder to do FLV to H.264 conversion. A script to do this on the server side, run it through mencoder, and return the result would be what, a 10 liner script? Unless they are doing something more complicated than that, which I doubt. And a bit of logic in the browser itself to translate FLV references.

        Of course, it's got to use a lot of CPU cycles on the server side to do this at any sort of scale, bu

        • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday April 29, 2010 @07:38PM (#32038650) Homepage

          Of course, it's got to use a lot of CPU cycles on the server side to do this at any sort of scale, built into a browser. But I guess if you are making enough money off your browser, then cool.

          That depends on whether they're really "transcoding". Most Flash these days is H264 anyway, so it might just be doing something to bypass Flash and give the device access to the video stream. Of course, most sites are going to start doing this anyway (giving HTML5-capable browsers the ability to bypass Flash and go straight to the video), but this might work as an interim solution.

          • by tangent3 (449222)

            FLV container stream -> demux to h.264 stream + aac stream -> mux to MP4 container stream
            No transcoding required, unless the original video contains a video or audio stream in a format that the device cannot natively play.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by wvmarle (1070040)

            That depends on whether they're really "transcoding". Most Flash these days is H264 anyway, so it might just be doing something to bypass Flash and give the device access to the video stream.

            Sounds very reasonable, and also immediately explains why it "doesn't support all video" as the summary indicates.

    • by Ilgaz (86384) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @09:11PM (#32039466) Homepage

      If vendor of device is wise and OS is open enough to talk to chips, H264 will be possibly decoded on chip. Just like my Nokia does while running flash embedded video. Of course, it is a video and video does have some load on battery, just like if I launched a m4v from its file browser.

      Please don't get brainwashed by Steve. Today, a Mac Mini having Nvidia 9400, Flash 10.1 does play 1080P HD video with 4% CPU, if it is running Windows. If it runs OS X, it uses a lot of processing power since until 10.6.3, there was no way to talk to GPU to do its job.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @07:07PM (#32038390)

    I would rather not have someone recording every page I visit, which is what opera does with its man-in-the-middle attack is a feature browser.

    • Yes, it does the same thing as Opera.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      if you don't want someone logging every page you visit, better not use a google phone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You have nothing to worry about. No one cares that you visit slashdot, and if you get good kharma, you can even turn off the ads.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        While probably no-one cares whether or not I visit /., that doesn't mean I like to tell just everybody that I am a regular reader/poster. If they ask me I will tell, but not need to tell them beforehand. And that's what we're talking about here.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A man-in-the-middle attack doesn't have a legally binding privacy policy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Agarax (864558)

      I would rather not have someone recording every page I visit, which is what opera does with its man-in-the-middle attack is a feature browser.

      Like your ISP's DNS server?

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Which is why I do not use their DNS servers.
        Actually I don't use them because they go down more than a Thia hooker, but it would be another reason not to use them.

  • by Fahrvergnuugen (700293) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @07:12PM (#32038426) Homepage
    Or is it just stripping the FLV container off of the H.264 video stream embedded inside?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I suspect it's stripping and repackaging it. (could be wrong, but I don't think a raw h.264 stream is streamable)

      Which would mean, naturally, that it won't work for other codecs, but h.264 is the majority of flvs these days, so sounds OK.

      The CPU to actually transcode would be crazy, I can't imagine they're doing that...

      • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @11:36PM (#32040404) Homepage Journal

        It is neither, it works per proxy server.

        Like Opera Mini, earlier versions of Skyfire for Windows Mobile and Symbian were proxy browsers that compressed Web pages on the server side before transferring them to the phone. With this Android edition, the Skyfire folks are shifting strategy. Android’s Webkit-based rendering engine is already capable of displaying Web pages swiftly and accurately, they figure, so they’re not trying to duplicate it. Skyfire for Android uses the same Webkit rendering that Android’s default browser does–but rolls it into a browser with a bunch more features.

        The most notable of these new capabilities is Flash video playback. For that, Skyfire still uses a proxy approach: When you come to pages with Flash videos, it identifies them, compresses them, and converts them to H.264 and HTML5, then transfers them to your phone for playback.

        Would have been too cool if they had managed to do it on the client. I'd have wanted it as a Firefox plugin ...

  • by straponego (521991) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @07:15PM (#32038464)
    Does anybody know if the default Android browser will allow blocking Flash when 10.1 ships? I think it's possible that I might find a use for a Flash program on a phone sometime, but if I can't block it by default I'd rather not have it at all. Screen, bandwidth, CPU and battery are at a premium on mobile devices. I'd rather not sacrifice them so I can watch a visual bedlam of ads for products that I will never buy (if you throw Flash ads at me, I boycott you. Ads only affect my buying choices negatively; so really, I'm doing you a favor by blocking your ads, marketing weasels. And I'm saving you money too!).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by postmortem (906676)
      Hopefully it will have way to bock Flash, and let you open Flash items that you want - but that means less money from advertising.
      • by rsborg (111459)

        Hopefully it will have way to bock Flash, and let you open Flash items that you want - but that means less money from advertising.

        You think that Google, the advertising giant will support this? Maybe as some sort of app/plugin, but I strongly doubt that any Flash blocker will emanate from Mountain View.

    • I have no idea about Android (and thus am answering your question with a non-answer), but on Maemo on the N900 its trivial - open the browser, choose 'settings' from the titlebar drop down, choose 'add-ons', choose 'plugins', highlight Shockwave Flash and click disable.
  • Last I checked... (Score:3, Informative)

    by TrancePhreak (576593) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @07:42PM (#32038696)
    Skyfire would show more than just videos, it would show pretty much all kinds of flash content. From games to vector videos like Strongbad emails.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jpmorgan (517966)

      Indeed it has full support for Flash and Silverlight in the Windows Mobile version. However if you've ever used it substantially, it becomes apparent that the backend for WinMo is basically implemented using screen-scraping. The Skyfire client is basically just a clever image viewer.

      From the sound of it they're implementing something more advanced (probably their own WebKit derived renderer) for the Android backend. Although I wonder if they're still delivering images, or just sending a special markup like

  • by BlueBoxSW.com (745855) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:17PM (#32039016) Homepage

    I just kind of assumed with all those bashing the iPhone for not supporting Flash that Android did it out of the box.

    Is there any mobile that supports full Flash well?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evJeremy (1721378)
      I'm pretty sure the n900 does.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by linzeal (197905)
      Windows Mobile with skyfire is pry the best flash platform for mobile flash viewing, atm.
    • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@nOSPAm.ovi.com> on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:10PM (#32039910) Homepage

      The Nokia N900 supports Flash in it's own browser, or Firefox, or Chromium. Unlike iWhatever or Android there are no limits put on you. Oh, and you have root access, and can develop in whatever you want, and don't have to ask anyone for any permission, to do anything.

      So there!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by lonecrow (931585)
      I think the issue that that Apple forbids flash whereas flash support for Android has just not yet been developed.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        I think the issue that that Apple forbids flash whereas flash support for Android has just not yet been developed.

        The big question is WHY?!

        Adobe wants to get Flash on the iPhone. Yet Jobs has spurned Flash. Yet Adobe keeps trying.

        All that effort could've been better spent getting Flash working on open devices, like Android. Instead Adobe just wants Apple to support Flash. Hell, didn't Jobs give Adobe a challenge to show Flash working well on any device?

        • by Joe Tie. (567096)
          It's a big company, and you can only have so many hands in things at once. Shockingly, adobe seems to grasp the importance of android for flash and it seems like they're really putting some effort into it.
  • Uh oh. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:49PM (#32039278)

    From the license agreement:

    When you use the browser, Skyfire has access to, and in many cases will monitor, your Browser Usage.

    also

    Personal information collected by Skyfire may be stored and processed in the United States or any other country in which Skyfire Labs, Inc. or its agents maintain facilities. By using Skyfire products and services, you consent to any such transfer of information outside of your country.

    I understand that to work Skyfire needs to translate some stuff from Flash to HTML 5, but the word "monitor" is a little scary. Also I don't appreciate the fact that the GPS turned on before I even got a chance to read the terms of use.

    So... speaking personally... I'm not accepting.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Did it over ride your settings to turn on GPS, or did you not have it disabled?

  • Skyfire... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aapold (753705) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @09:58PM (#32039804) Homepage Journal
    I've used skyfire on windows mobile for some time (and still do when I don't unload it for Android). It handles most flash flawlessly.... but not on the phone.

    What skyfire does, as near as I understand it, is route all traffic to skyfire servers, which then convert the whole shebang, in real time, to what they then send to your phone. I've played flash games, seen web video, etc, all sans any trouble at all. It wasn't the most user-friendly browser initially but it has improved dramatically recently. It still won't zoom as easily as opera, for example....

    However, you should be aware of the middle man, and in using it you are implicitly trusting them with everything you do through them, and some might have a problem with that.
    • However, you should be aware of the middle man, and in using it you are implicitly trusting them with everything you do through them, and some might have a problem with that.

      Sounds interesting, I'll probably try it whenever I need flash support for something, and use my standard browser the rest of the time when I don't.
  • Now just to be clear, Skyfire is not to be confused with Jetfire...

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