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“They’ve taken an enormous hit because of the collapse of Kodak, and Waterloo will take an enormous hit assuming that RIM ultimately vanishes from the scene, but I think the overall economy and region has been so fundamentally changed by RIM that it will actually do very well,” Homer-Dixon said.

Homer-Dixon says RIM’s impact on the city has been staggering.

His think tank was created by RIM’s Balsillie, and he also is a professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo. Balsillie and Lazaridis have together donated more than $400 million to the community. Lazaridis has donated $150 million to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, which he founded in 2000 and which attracts the involvement of such giants of physics as Stephen Hawking.

“Ten years from now BlackBerrys will be in the Smithsonian but these institutions will hopefully still be thriving,” Homer-Dixon said.

Lazaridis, 51, remains on RIM’s board. Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa, a fellow board member, calls the Turkish-born Greek immigrant a genius who pioneered the smartphone. “It really would be unfortunate if anything happened to RIM, and I’d like to do whatever I can to help,” Watsa said.

In an interview with The Associated Press at RIM headquarters in Waterloo, Heins said he won’t try to compete head-to-head with Apple but will try to build on RIM’s strengths, such as its dominance of the corporate smartphone market. RIM says more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies use BlackBerry and that more than a million North American government workers rely on BlackBerry’s software security.

But Heins acknowledges RIM failed to quickly adapt to the emerging “bring your own device” trend, in which employees bring their personal iPhones or Android devices to work instead of relying on BlackBerrys issued by their employers.

That’s where BlackBerry 10 comes in _ delayed but not too late to vie with the new Apple iPhone expected this fall, or so Heins hopes.

“At the end of the day if the product is good you can always come back,” Heins said. “There’s many examples of how that has happened. I’m not that scared about this, frankly.”

Other tech companies have indeed recovered from the ropes. The late Steve Jobs said Apple was less than three months away from bankruptcy when he rejoined it in 1997, and it’s now the world’s most valuable company.

Homer-Dixon said it’s amazing that RIM in Waterloo got this far, considering it has had to compete with Silicon Valley, “the most powerful engine of innovation that humankind has ever created.”

Neither Lazaridis nor Balsillie has given interviews about RIM since stepping down, but Homer-Dixon suggests Balsillie is well prepared for a change of fortune.

He recalls being on a boat in the Arctic in mid-2009 with Balsillie, who talked about the importance of luck in building a tech giant. A crew member asked where RIM would be in five years.

“He said, ‘Well the smartphone industry is a rapidly expanding market and I think we’ll retain a segment of it.’ Then his last words were ‘I don’t think RIM will go bankrupt, but who knows.’”