updated 11:30 pm EST, Tue November 23, 2010
RIM pulls Kik from BlackBerry App World
RIM stirred controversy today when it pulled the real-time texting app Kik from BlackBerry App World. The company both removed the app and disabled push services for having "breached contractual obligations" but without saying what those were. Both its own issues and the "broad scope" of customer worries demanded action, RIM claimed.
The exact reasons behind the pull weren't known but could involve both legitimate security concerns and competition. Kik's service scraped e-mail messages on BlackBerry devices and suggested them as contacts, possibly violating BlackBerry App World's privacy policies. However, some have speculated that RIM was primarily concerned that Kik is too similar to BlackBerry Messenger and is a competitive threat that would reduce the incentive to keep using BlackBerries. The app has been available on Android and iPhone devices and, if popular, could make it easier to switch platforms.
RIM hasn't commented on the forced exit, which first took place November 12 but was formalized when push services were turned off. Kik treated the move as a "huge blow" and noted that it had been one of RIM's most favored developers, even receiving an award at BlackBerry DevCon a year ago. It argued privacy shouldn't be a concern since an update was sent to RIM that implemented controls. Company chief Ted Livingston wanted to downplay accusations of conspiracy but warned that they could represent hypocrisy and anti-competitive issues.
"We would be surprised and disappointed if there is any truth to this, as RIM has always championed the BlackBerry ecosystem as an open platform," he said. "However, if true, the implications would go well beyond Kik to the entire mobile community, users and developers alike."
Apple has been accused of similar practices in the past after the roughly year and a half, highlighted by a long block on Google Voice for allegedly duplicating iPhone features, but Apple's loosened iOS app rules finally brought Google onboard and have posed no restrictions for Kik, contradicting RIM's frequent claims to openness. Google's own open policies have always allowed the app on Android. As the title took just two weeks to reach one million users and has 2.5 million after six weeks, Kik hasn't been dependent on RIM's help to grow but would be forced to leave it behind and could deal its own blow to a mobile app store that has just 10,000 apps versus 100,000 on Android and 300,000 on iOS. [via CrackBerry]