Heavy demand from Apple's mobile devices caused the new Skyfire browser to be pulled from Apple's App Store. The $2.99 app skirts Apple's ban on Adobe Flash by sending content through Skyfire Labs servers, which were overwhelmed. Skyfire promised a quick return of the top-grossing app. Skyfire is also available on other mobile platforms.
Hours after hitting Apple's App Store, the Skyfire browser, which allows the display of Adobe Flash content on iOS devices, was removed. Developer Skyfire Labs said demand "far exceeded our initial projections."
The app sold for $2.99 and was gone within five hours of launch, but Skyfire insisted the removal was voluntary, with no interference from the App Store gatekeepers.
Come Back Later
"The user experience was performing well for the first few hours, but as the surge continued, the peak load on our servers and bandwidth caused the video experience to degrade," wrote Robert Oberhofer on the company's blog. "Thus we are effectively 'sold out' and will temporarily not accept new purchases from the App Store. We are working really hard to increase capacity and will be accepting new purchases from the App Store as soon as we can support it."
Mountain View, Calif.,-based Skyfire said the browser was the top-grossing app for the iPhone, the third-highest-paid app overall, and the top application in the utilities category at the time it was pulled. It promised to have the app back online for Apple users in the near future. The blog proudly displayed an image of its App Store offering on an iPhone screen with the words Sold Out.
Demand likely surged because users wanted to test the Flash video capabilities on Apple mobile devices, said Gartner Research analyst Michael Gartenberg.
"Skyfire has been around for a while on various platforms, but being on a platform with iOS popularity overwhelmed them pretty quickly," said Gartenberg, who said the company's retreat was wise. "Better to pull the app [and] work to preserve the experience for existing users before taking new ones on."
Breaking the Ban
Skyfire is also available from Google's Android Market, Microsoft 's Windows Marketplace, and Nokia's Ovi Store for Symbian-based phones. The company said it had 500,000 downloads in the first six weeks on the Android Market.
Acceptance by the App Store is noteworthy because of Skyfire's ability to do an end run around Apple's ban of Adobe Flash graphics on its mobile devices. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has famously derided Flash, saying in an April open letter that "We know from painful experience that letting a third-party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in substandard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform."
Adobe responded with its own message, saying: "We believe open markets that allow developers, publishers and consumers to make their own choices about how they create, distribute and access content are essential to progress."
Skyfire plays Flash graphics by uploading them to the company's cloud servers and streaming them back to the iOS device in HTML5.
PC magazine's test of the app on Wednesday encountered some problems on the iPhone, but it worked better on a Wi-Fi-equipped iPad.