Wanna Z10 phone? It might just save BlackBerry.

BlackBerry will open pre-orders for its new Z10 smart phone today.

The BlackBerry Z10 smartphone, pictured here, comes equipped with the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

Today, BlackBerry – the company formerly known as RIM – will begin taking pre-orders for its Z10 smart phone

The stakes are extremely high. In recent years, BlackBerry has watched as its competitors, including Apple and Samsung, take bigger and bigger bites of its once-substantial smart-phone market share. Meanwhile, layoffs have been rampant, corporate restructuring has been a regular occurrence, and products that should have helped bolster BlackBerry, such as the PlayBook, have turned instead to be incredibly costly flops

So yes, there's a lot riding on the Z10, which will actually hit shelves on March 22. The BlackBerry-10-equipped device is powerful and sleek and while it retains a lot of the business-first amenities of its predecessors – lots of security, dynamic email, and messaging options – it's also a phone that is clearly targeted at a wider array of users. Indeed, early hands-on reviews have stressed the accessibility of the device. 

"BB10 is all about swiping to navigate. You swipe up to wake the devices, swipe right to check out BlackBerry Hub and view your notifications, swipe left to access your currently running apps and the home screen, and swipe down to check out both system-wide and app-specific settings," one critic wrote. "Overall, while it’s different, it’s a surprisingly intuitive experience, and one that exceeds the tacked-on touch experience of BB OS 7 and earlier." 

BlackBerry, of course, faces the unenviable task of convincing consumers they'd be better off with a Z10 than, say, an iPhone 5 or the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S4

But early signs have not been particularly promising. According to the Financial Post, T. Michael Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, recently slashed his forecast of BB10 shipments in the current quarter to 300,000 units. He'd previously estimated that BlackBerry would unload 1.75 million units. 

"Our follow-up checks have indicated steady but modest sales levels," Walkley said in a report obtained by the Financial Post. "With new BB10 smartphones launching in the U.S. only in mid-March or later at subsidized prices no better than competing high-end Apple/Samsung smartphones… we are lowering our BB10 sales estimates for the February quarter and all of fiscal 2014."

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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