ARMONK, N.Y. ( TheStreet) -- IBM (IBM - Get Report) CEO Sam Palmisano may not be a rock-star executive in the mold of Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) Steve Jobs or Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) Steve Ballmer, but he has been earning applause for successfully guiding the tech giant through the economic downturn.
The Armonk, N.Y.-based firm has been one of the success stories of the recession. Margins have fattened despite falling revenue, as Palmisano has zeroed in on fertile parts of the company. The 58-year-old, who played backup sax for the Temptations when he was in high school, now is leading the band at IBM.
"When you think of large technology companies and who has navigated the storm best, I think that IBM has got to be at the top of the list," Brian Marshall, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech, told TheStreet. "They have done a great job of executing their business plan."
Palmisano, a 36-year IBM veteran who succeeded Lou Gerstner as CEO in 2003, has done a good job of building on his predecessor's work. In the last six years, Palmisano has shifted IBM's focus further from its hardware roots into higher-margin businesses such as services and software.