Group messaging app Kik, if you recall, racked up big downloads a year ago after launching on BlackBerry, iPhone and Android but then ran into an unexpected wall in Waterloo, Ontario neighbor Research In Motion, which pulled the app from its platform alleging breach of contract and then followed up with a patent suit.
Well the start-up is set to reappear on BlackBerry devices with a new Java ME-based app that will allow Kik to distribute the app directly to BlackBerry users from its website, sidestepping its ban in BlackBerry App world. Kik has rebuilt the app from the ground up, which has actually resulted in a more streamlined app that performs faster than the original native BlackBerry Kik app. Messages aren’t pushed from RIM’s servers but rather, are going through Kik’s servers.
Kik is taking advantage of the fact that BlackBerry Apps are built on two layers of code, first Java and then the actual BlackBerry OS. By building a Java ME app, it allows Kik to skirt around building on the BlackBerry OS, which it’s blocked from doing and allows Kik to distribute its Java ME apps on other feature phones that support it. And more importantly, it enables Kik to reestablish cross-platform service between iOS, Android and BlackBerry, a key differentiating point as Apple, RIM and Google push their own messaging platforms. Said Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston:
“While we don’t think BlackBerry is necessarily the key to driving our success in the long term, we wanted to show our fans on the platform that we still cared and had not stopped innovating ways to bring them the fastest and cleanest messaging app available. Also, many of our existing users have friends/family on BlackBerrys, so giving them the means to connect with each other made good sense. We actually think the ‘cross-platform’ nature of mobile messaging is key – it’s very rare for someone’s social graph to be composed of a single device type.”
While the BlackBerry ban has been tough, it hasn’t stopped Kik from growing. It’s up to 4.5 million users, who are sending 300 million messages a month. But still, it’s a nice win to get back on BlackBerry devices, especially for a company built in the shadow of RIM. The feud with RIM hasn’t scared off investors either. The start-up raised $8 million in March from Union Square, RRE Ventures and Spark Capital. The patent case is still ongoing, and Livingston isn’t commenting on the litigation.
To get the app, you’ll need to download it here. And be warned, Research In Motion hadn’t approved this app, so you may have to wade through permissions to do a lot of things.