Place your bets - who will fall off the cliff of technology change?

We’ve all become used to the idea of constant change working in a sector like IT. We’re so familiar with coping with the pace of innovation, that sometimes it’s easy to miss the scale of what is happening around us.

Make no mistake, we’re seeing change at a pace and scale that even for technology is almost unprecedented.

This week, one of the world’s biggest and most successful IT companies basically admitted that its strategy is wrong and desperate measures are needed to secure its long-term survival. Michael Dell placed a $24bn bet that he can turn the company he founded into a modern software, services and cloud provider.

Taking the firm private is a huge gamble. It’s also a historic milestone in the decline of the PC sector that has sustained so much of the IT industry for 30 years.

As I’ve written in this blog before, we’re entering a period where change is no longer a gradual, inexorable downward curve – but instead it’s a cliff. Dell saw the cliff approaching too late and is trying to perform a high-speed handbrake turn.

BlackBerry, the original icon of the smartphone and mobile working world, has also placed what could be its final bet. After far too many years of development, its new BlackBerry 10 operating system and associated handsets are the last throw of the dice. If it fails, the company fails – simple as that, and as unprecedented as that.

Closer to home, we’ve seen one of the UK’s biggest and best known resellers, 2e2, collapse into sudden administration.

In an industry that has always been obsessed with the “next big thing” – take a look at the current big things: cloud, mobile, social, big data. As we know those topics today, they were barely on the edges of many IT leaders’ radar even three years ago. Only a select few forward-thinkers saw the dramatic rise and the scale of change those trends would initiate.

We are in what one expert has called a state of war – established companies fighting for their position as they see their cosy status quo disappear, and new entrants charge the battlefield.

In the midst of such change, it’s hard sometimes to find the time to step back and get some perspective. But for IT leaders it’s going to be increasingly important to understand the broader context of the current landscape, and to plot a successful route.

A lot of people in IT will be placing a lot of bets in the next year or two, and a lot of companies will see their future determined as a result.