While François Truffaut harshly argued that Britain and cinema were incompatible terms, the same condemnation could justifiably apply to mobile phones and web browsers.

The two just haven’t mixed well. Displaying a standard web page on a small screen has often meant unacceptable squinting and scrolling. Data connections have tended to be slow and problematic, while the lack of multimedia plug-ins has ruled out video and audio being played.

Things improved as some publishers produced versions of their sites designed for a cell phone screen. The next major leap has been beyond the browser to content “apps”, popularised by the iPhone, which were purpose-designed for a particular phone and had full functionality.

The iPhone itself has a fine, touch-enabled browser in Safari, although it has been crippled by the lack of Flash from Adobe , meaning multimedia elements cannot be played.

On other phones, Opera’s Mini browser has set the standard, with its ability to easily zoom in and click around on web pages, but it is now facing some serious competition.

Mozilla, the open-source company behind Firefox, is working on a promising mobile version called Fennec, although it is still in its early stages of development.

Bitstream launched a beta version of its Bolt browser at the Mobile World Congress in February. It is fast, as its name suggests, and runs on a wide range of phones, rather than just smartphones. It also plays media, although I found it rather kludgy in the way it had to open the media player on my Blackberry to do so.

Skyfire, with its ability to play many kinds of audio and video formats, seemed to be the most promising mobile browser when it was unveiled at Demo in January 2008. But it was September before a beta version was released and then for only Windows Mobile and Symbian phones.

The company has finally come out of beta today with its 1.0 launch and has announced that a version for the Blackberry is on the way.

Trying the browser on a Palm Treo, I was able to watch a comedy show on Hulu.com and listen to audio from the BBC’s site, along with enhanced browsing. There are easy zooms and the ability quickly to find sites through the “Superbar”, which auto-suggests web sites and queries as you type.

Skyfire also has social-media elements that make it the mobile equivalent to Flock. Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as RSS feeds, can be added to the Start page, allowing real-time updates from friends and news sources.

Skyfire’s co-founder and chief executive Nitin Bhandari told me the browser was also an example of mobile cloud computing – the problem of media plug-ins has been resolved by Skyfire processing and delivering media on its own servers, so users don’t have to worry about compatibility or installing add-ons.

“The operators love us because they can give this great end-user experience while saving lots of bandwidth,” he said.

“On average, we save about 70-75 per cent of the bandwidth compared to a fat-client browser, such as on an iPhone.”

Mr Bhandari, whose Silicon Valley company has grown to more than 40 people with the help of $17.8m in venture capital, is not afraid of competition from bigger rivals.

“It’s rightly more competitive than two years ago, because it’s such a huge opportunity,” he said.

“With 3-4bn handsets and users over the next five years and all this rich content on the web, somebody’s got to connect them. It’s much larger an opportunity than it ever was on the PC.”

Skyfire has a long way to go to grab a significant portion of that opportunity. While more than 1m people tried its beta version, that compares to more than 20m using the leading downloadable browser, Opera Mini, and hundreds of millions using NetFront, the leading pre-installed browser.

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