Device operating systems

AT&T Gets Personal With Skyfire's Browser

Wireless operators may have lost the real estate they had on the mobile Web when the iPhone made the "carrier deck" -- the carrier's default "home page" -- all but irrelevant in 2007, but they are working their way back online with the help of an alternative browser from Skyfire Inc.

The vendor on Thursday unveiled its Horizon Toolbar and extension platform, with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) as its first customer. The carrier will embed the toolbar, which lets users customize their browser with social extensions, utilities and Web apps, on select Android smartphones.

With Horizon, for example, users will be able to see what their social networking contacts are reading when on ESPN.com or receive discounts from Blue Kangaroo when they browse to Macy's site. Operators can also offer up their own long-tail apps recommendations on the toolbar. But, consumers will have the final say on what stays and what goes.

Skyfire will also work with third-party developers to build apps for the toolbar, although it won't be an open framework at launch, since there's a higher priority for privacy and security on the Web, says Skyfire CEO Jeff Glueck.

Why this matters
One big reason wireless operators should find Skyfire's browser appealing is that it's built to be friendly with wireless networks. Glueck says says that the toolbar extensions don't use more network resources than necessary, nor does it slow Web searches or drain the battery.

The Toolbar also presents an opportunity to add banner ads or promotions, and handle merchandizing and general customer relationship management for the operators. Plus, it keeps them in the picture -- if Skyfire's platform provides a good browsing experience, it could create a halo effect for the carrier.

"They used to have 50 to 60 percent of subscribers each month come to the carrier deck. They had a connection to users," Glueck says, noting that the attraction rate has dropped to the "low single-digits" in the iPhone/Android era. Horizon "earns the carriers some beachfront real estate," he adds.

For more

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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