BlackBerry to kill itself with virtual keyboard?

Apple’s iPhone 3G has the App Store, 3G connectivity and legions of fans. RIM’s BlackBerry has business class ubiquity, a physical keyboard and the not-so-unfortunate fact that it rhymes with crack. Pros and cons on both sides of the smartphone fence, but Apple is making inroads as an enterprise solution, the traditional breeding grounds of the BlackBerry .

One of the biggest differentiators between the two phones is the virtual keyboard used by the iPhone, while the BlackBerry utilizes a physical QWERTY keyboard. No small difference, as form and function collide head on when considering the needs of a massive audience. If the virtual keyboard gains the respect of enterprise, RIM could be in some pretty deep water. Recent reports have shown their touchscreen interface needs work. However, if they decide to follow in Apple’s footsteps, they very well could end up in the dustbin of obscurity if not irrelevance. Who would want to bother with a repeater when you could side with an innovator?

Ars Technica is running an opinion piece dealing with what RIM must do to counter the massively popular iPhone. Besides highlighting the issue of the virtual vs. physical keyboard, battery life and price are other major differences RIM would need to focus on to remain relevant.

One other factor remains that is sort of an X factor: The App Store. The fact that Apple has a massive and loyal fan base practically guarantees users are going to be addicted to clever, new apps for the foreseeable future. Did you know? RIM has one too, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Apple’s is a mite more popular.