Early Friday morning, I awoke to a deeply dismaying and wholly unexpected message from BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM). It boils down to this: RIM is kicking BlackBerry users off Kik.

Kik had already been excluded from BlackBerry App World, so no new Kik downloads have been possible for BlackBerry users. But now RIM has shut down “push” access; as a result, messages to BlackBerry users will be delayed by up to an hour. RIM has also now removed access to the BlackBerry Software Development Kit and Signing Keys, so any future development is frozen.

On behalf of our nearly one million Kik users on Blackberry devices, we truly hope RIM reverses these steps.

If you’re an iPhone or Android user, you are not affected (except for Kik message delays to and from friends using BlackBerrys). If you’re not yet on Kik, you can continue to download Kik on Apple’s App Store and the Android Market.

As you likely know, Kik went massively viral after our Oct. 19 re-launch – on all three smartphone platforms. Two weeks in, we had 1 million users. Now we have 2.5 million users, and we’re still growing (even without new BlackBerry downloads).

However, for BlackBerry users and our little company, RIM’s actions are a huge blow.

We have worked day and night to build a super-fast, reliable and free cross-platform instant messaging app. This includes more than a year of development for BlackBerry smartphones. We have worked cooperatively with RIM at every step. We think it’s fair to say that, until very recently, our relationship has been nothing less than friendly.

RIM placed Kik on BlackBerry App World without issue. Kik’s upcoming mobile music service received a special award at BlackBerry DevCon about a year ago, and was named by RIM just six weeks ago as one of the first five featured apps to be included in its upcoming BBM platform.

We are very grateful for RIM’s past assistance and support. We’re honoured that they welcomed us with open arms. And we have responded fully to any concerns they have raised. We know battery life and privacy could not be concerns, because we have completed an update that sips battery power and provides additional privacy controls, and have offered it to RIM.

Knowing this, we are confident there is no reason service should be denied to Kik users.

On behalf of our 2.5 million users, we implore RIM to maintain and fully restore Kik service on BlackBerry.

Kik is a small start-up with a big idea – just as RIM once was. We are thrilled by the popularity of our instant messaging app.

Some people have suggested that we’re “too similar” to RIM’s instant messaging product, and that somehow this is behind their decision. 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. However, if true, the implications would go well beyond Kik to the entire mobile community, users and developers alike.

We urge RIM to embrace the spirit of a fair and open mobile platform that will enrich their users with more great new apps. Everyone – BlackBerry users, Kik users, our businesses and the wider smartphone community – will win.

Surely the one thing we can agree on is that the user should come first. On behalf of almost 1 million BlackBerry users who have already downloaded and use Kik, let’s work together and put this behind us.

Rogers, Telus, Bell…are you guys looking at this yet?

RIM to Sell Tablet for Less Than $500 to Take on IPad

November 10, 2010, 12:35 AM EST

By Jun Yang

(Updates with official’s comments from sixth paragraph.)

Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) — Research In Motion Ltd., the maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, said it will begin selling a tablet computer in North America in the first quarter for “under” $500 as it takes on Apple Inc.’s iPad.

“The product will be very competitively priced,” Co-Chief Executive Officer Jim Balsillie said in an interview in Seoul today, declining to be more specific. Sales of the BlackBerry Playbook, unveiled in September, will expand globally from the second quarter, he said. The iPad starts at $499.

RIM, Hewlett-Packard Co., Samsung Electronics Co. and Motorola Inc. are seeking to build tablet computers after the introduction of the iPad triggered demand for devices that can fill the gap between smartphones and laptops. Apple sold 3 million iPads in the first 80 days after the device’s April debut, eclipsing sales of its iPod music player.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM is trying to differentiate itself from Apple and other tablet makers by stressing the ability of its PlayBook tablet to handle Adobe Systems Inc.’s Flash technology that underpins much of the video content on the Internet. The iPad doesn’t run Flash video or animation.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, increased its market share in tablet computers to 95 percent in the third quarter, according to Strategy Analytics. Global tablet sales rose 26 percent from the previous period to 4.4 million units, with Apple selling 4.19 million iPads, the researcher said last week.

IPad’s Dominance

The iPad’s dominance in the tablet-computer market will “change when we’re in the market,” Balsillie said today.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs has said RIM would struggle to attract application developers to support its BlackBerry smartphone and that devices like the PlayBook are “dead on arrival” because they are too small to compete with the iPad.

In response, Balsillie said at the time customers are getting “tired” of Apple’s controlling business strategy.

The PlayBook has a 7-inch (18-centimeter) screen, smaller than the iPad’s 9.7-inch display.

The company is counting on the tablet to increase revenue as the BlackBerry loses ground. RIM’s share of the smartphone market slid to 18 percent in the second quarter from 19 percent a year earlier. Apple’s iPhone boosted its share to 14 percent from 13 percent, and devices based on Google Inc.’s Android software surged to 17 percent from 1.8 percent, according to researcher IDC.

South Korea Sales

RIM may sell the Playbook through retail stores of Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. in the U.S. as well through carriers, Balsillie said.

“Looking at both channels is the likely target,” he said.

South Korea will be one of the first countries outside the U.S. where the PlayBook will be sold, Balsillie said, declining to say in how many countries the product will go on sale in the second quarter.

“Korea’s such a strategic market, because it’s so big, so innovative,” Balsillie said. “It’s going to be one of the very, very first.”

RIM is hiring staff for sales and service after registering a legal entity in September to set up a branch in the country, he said. The office, to be located in downtown Seoul, will start operating by the end of this year.

RIM will start selling the Torch, the company’s first smartphone to combine a touch screen with a full Qwerty keyboard, in Korea this year or early next year, he said.

A 50 percent price cut by AT&T Inc., the second-largest U.S. mobile-phone carrier, is “hugely good” for the sales of the device, Balsillie said. AT&T said yesterday it dropped the price for the Torch to $99.99 with a two-year contract from the $199.99 it charged when it began selling on Aug. 12.

“That’s a dream come true,” he said. “New pricing, new promo, right into the holiday season — what can I say? I couldn’t be happier.”

–Editors: Anand Krishnamoorthy, Young-Sam Cho

To contact the reporter on this story: Jun Yang in Seoul at jyang180@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net

When Barack Obama launched his administration’s efforts to expand health insurance in the United States, he said all Americans had a right to the same quality of health insurance as their elected representatives in Washington. Here’s a different goal Canadians need to strive for: Every Canadian ought to have the same Internet and wireless access as their MPs in Ottawa.

More related to this story

As you read this, hundreds of MPs and thousands of public servants are busily typing away with their thumbs on or near Parliament Hill. And yet, there are places an hour’s drive from Ottawa with no cellphone reception and nothing better than dial-up connection to the Internet. I can think of no other national capital, with the exception (perhaps) of Mongolia’s, where a similar situation exists.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is currently holding hearings to determine whether rural and remote communities are entitled to the same level of connectivity as urban centres. All Canadians have an interest in this issue, not just the six million who live in rural areas and small towns. Setting a goal of broadband for everyone is in our national interest, just as the railway, the post office, the RCMP and the Trans-Canada highway were in years past.

Urban Canadians take for granted the economic and social advantages offered by high-speed broadband and wireless networks. There’s an assumption in today’s economy that you’re connected to a broadband or high-speed wireless network. Online shopping, online banking, using your cellphone when your car breaks down in the middle of the night, entering the Hockey Night in Canada MashUp contest: all inconvenient or out of reach for millions of Canadians.

Businesses rely on image-laden websites to serve their customers, as do provincial and federal governments. You know the ads with the slick guy who buys hockey tickets with his smartphone and the ordinary guy who can’t make an important phone call to his boss? Your MP is the slick guy with the rinkside seats in the digital economy, rural Canadians the ordinary ones who can’t get into the game.

Everyone wins when rural Canadians gain access to high-speed connections. Rural businesses have access to a much broader range of potential suppliers and customers, increasing their contribution to the nation’s economy and employment. Specialized medical services from rheumatology to psychiatric counselling to early stroke intervention can be delivered via the Internet to rural areas, reducing the need to bring patients to the city at great public expense. Rural young people acquire the latest electronic gadgetry and the skills to use it, reducing the urge to leave for the city and enhancing the employment skills of those who do. These are just a few of the benefits that accrue to us all.

Most important are the lost opportunities in human capital and innovation. We have entered an age when innovation no longer refers only to engineers with pocket protectors working in research parks. Give millions more Canadians high-speed connectivity and you create millions more potential innovators overnight. A teenager in Beaver Flat, Sask., or Slate Falls, Ont., may only use high-speed Internet and a smartphone to chat with her friends and share pictures from last Friday’s party, like most city kids do. Then again, she might develop the next killer app, creating wealth and jobs for Canadians we can’t yet imagine. Give tens of thousands of rural Canadian kids like her those tools, and one or more of them will become that next great innovator.

There are many options for bringing broadband to all Canadians. Plenty of other countries are doing it for their rural citizens, and we can, too. We can order the telecoms to do it, and they will (grumbling loudly, of course, and trying to pass as much of the cost on to their customers as they can). We can provide public subsidies to companies that bring broadband to the countryside, just as we provide public subsidies to companies that bring oil and electricity to the city. We can form public-private partnerships, perhaps taking the Alberta SuperNet as a national model. Whatever we do, we must take that first critical step and make this a Canadian priority.

It shouldn’t have to fall to the CRTC to make this decision. It’s in the national interest. Our MPs need to step up and make this call. Perhaps we need to shut down BlackBerry service to Parliament Hill for a day to get their attention.

Robert McLeman, an associate geographer at the University of Ottawa, is completing a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded report on rural connectivity as part of national consultations on Canada’s digital economy.

eBay’s Preloved: Toronto’s original upcycler is about to go digital first

Brett Gundlock/National Post

Brett Gundlock/National Post

Creative director Peter Friesen, pictured, and founder Julia Grieve brainstorm and create samples from the Preloved studio in downtown Toronto. Once a style is decided, it’s the same process whether it’s a sample or a production garment: for each one, someone has to eyeball piles of clothes and physically choose the several pieces it takes to make something new. This ensures that the many colours, textures and patterns are complimentary once combined.

  October 29, 2010 – 3:32 pm

Over the summer, Julia Roberts was hanging out in Toronto while her cameraman husband worked on a film. As is now famously tabloided, Roberts shopped for clothes at Preloved’s Toronto flagship store after lunch nearby. On the eve of her blockbuster movie, that drop-in was a headline writer’s dream: Eat, Shop Preloved.

Brett Gundlock/National Post

Sketches from the upcoming Spring/Summer 2011 collection (hint: vintage saris will add a touch of Bollywood spice).

The sustainable Canadian label may have been new to that pretty woman, but Preloved was already on the map with Canadians and international in-the-know retailers like Anthropologie. Founder Julia Grieve was an eco-pioneer when she founded the company back in 1995, years before it was trendy to upcycle. She uses reclaimed clothing and vintage fabric (bales of the stuff) as raw material, then cuts, sews and imagines it into something else entirely.

Brett Gundlock/National Pos

Production manager Lexie Cappuccitti sorts through several small mountains of garments to make her initial “select” of wool sweaters.

Around the same time, someone else big took notice of the company. Kevin Wolfley, the leader of eBay Canada’s Green Team, was impressed by their runway show at fashion week. The result is the launch of the exclusive Preloved for eBay collection, live online just after midnight this Wednesday ($59-$154 at ebay.ca/preloved). The nine styles for sale are a combination of pieces from the Fall 2010 collection and past season’s greatest hits. Only 200 of each have been made.

Brett Gundlock/National Post

Preloved decides that this men’s argyle sweater will become the front panels of the Heather cardigan, with a blue cable crewneck for contrast on either side, a grey ribbed v-neck as the arms and grey cashmere down the back. Capucccitti traces the pattern pieces by hand

The most popular piece, Grieve and creative director Friesen predict, will be the Honey, a flirty fitted crewneck sweater with a heart-shaped panel on the front. But for sheer useful upcycling, the Jeannine Tote requires not only a wool sweater for the body of the bag, but two pairs of khakis for the lining, a curtain for the interlining and sides and a leather skirt for the bottom. Upcycling the leather alone, says Grieve, saves the energy equivalent of three days of TV watching. That’s a lot of Dexter to feel virtuous about.

Grieve and Friesen are still deciding on the final spring lineup for both their own boutiques in Montreal, Toronto and Sydney, Australia and Preloved’s many wholesale retailers around the world. Once the orders come in, they will decide how much more of each type of raw material is needed to fulfill them. Rag houses sort by commodity, Grieve explains. Knits or T-shirts, flannel shirts, corduroy and denim, then into subcategories from there. “Levi’s are huge,” she continues; “your No. 1 grade of Levi’s will cost $5-$8 apiece, instead of by the pound.”

Posted in: Ampersand, Retail Therapy  Tags: ,

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