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Technophiles have been making a big to-do about RIM's [TSE:RIM] forthcoming BlackBerry Storm, the first touchscreen 'Berry and potential Apple [NASDAQ:AAPL] iPhone 3G challenger. Speculation has run rampant, as it usually does with breakthrough product development, with a whole range of rumors: some sources have leaked that the phone's development has hit ineluctable roadblocks, while others claim the device's progress is cruising smoothly toward its planned date of release. Whatever the truth is, it's perhaps best told in pictures — and today, that's exactly what we've gotten.

Several spy shots of the Storm's touchscreen keyboard posted here at Gizmodo show the Storm to have two keyboard modes, much like the iPhone, depending on the orientation at which the device is tilted. Landscape mode gives the user a full QWERTY keyboard, while portrait mode switches the keys to SureType — BlackBerry's two-letter-per-key system currently featured (and generally tolerated) on its Pearl model. 

While it's certainly lacking in any aesthetic flair (granted, this version is pre-production), the BlackBerry's keyboard has a spacious and user-friendly simplicity to it, even if it does take up a massive amount of screen space. If the buttons look more like buttons than you were expecting, you'll also be delighted (or perturbed) to know that they behave more like buttons as well; sporting something called dual tactile feedback, the Storm's screen will flex in a little bit when a button is pressed, and provide localized haptic feedback — a gentle buzz — in that same area, confirming that a key was pressed. Rest assured, if this feature isn't pitch-perfect at release time, it could be one of those nagging design flaws that dooms an otherwise heralded device, but descriptions thus far sound promising.