Taking a Kik at RIM

A speedy new chat application is a challenge to BlackBerry Messenger.

The exchanging of BlackBerry PINs is almost a rite of passage for new owners, because with that PIN comes access to the much-loved BlackBerry Messaging (or BBM) system.

Due to its speed and ease of use, BBM is a major selling point for RIM, and for BlackBerry users it has replaced the traditional text message between contacts. But now there’s a new competitor on the scene that’s drawing away those users in massive numbers.

Kik is a chat application for smartphones that The New York Times dubbed the “Skype of text messaging.” Earlier this month, the free service registered 250,000 users in only 24 hours — by the end of that week they were forecasted to have more than a million users, and that’s just two weeks after their launch.

What’s so special about Kik? Well, it doesn’t have a lot going for it, and that’s the draw. The software is faster than other similar applications because it’s simple — you can’t send attachments or photos with it. You can use it with all contacts, regardless of what smartphone they use, and the service cuts down the fees that mobile providers charge for text messaging on top of data plans. Kik’s explosive growth clearly has RIM worried; on Nov. 12 Kik was kicked out of the BlackBerry app store.