NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

chief

Sam Palmisano

is the tech sector's biggest recession-busting CEO, clinching more than half of the votes in

TheStreet

's recent

poll

of its readers.

Palmisano has overseen a

quiet revolution

at the tech bellwether, successfully guiding the Armonk, N.Y.-based firm through the global economic

downturn

. IBM has been one of the

success stories

of the recession, pushing margins up despite falling revenue, as Palmisano zeroed in on fertile areas such as software and services.

More than 4,000 readers responded to survey, with the IBM supremo grabbing more than 2,100 votes.

Steve Jobs

,

Apple's

(AAPL) - Get Report

talismanic CEO, came in second with just north of 1,000 votes.

EMC's

(EMC)

straight-talking Joe Tucci was a distant third, with a little more than 5% of the votes, closely followed by

Hewlett-Packard's

(HPQ) - Get Report

Mark Hurd

.

Dell's

(DELL) - Get Report

eponymous

leader

, Michael Dell, came in bottom of the 10-executive list with just 30 votes, just behind

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

CEO

Carol Bartz

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

's

Steve Ballmer

.

Despite his popularity with the investment community, Palmisano has proved a controversial figure during the recession and has come under fire in the media for his cost-cutting efforts, which have involved

layoffs

and shifting jobs to lower-cost parts of the world such as India. The 26-year IBM veteran has nonetheless continued the company's

shift

from hardware into higher-margin businesses such as services and software.

IBM has been on a software buying spree in recent years, most recently

grabbing

SPSS

for $1.2 billion. This followed a slew of acquisitions, notably a

$5 billion

deal for

Cognos

and a $2.1 billion

purchase

of

Rational Software

.

This approach certainly seems to be paying off. The company recently

reconfirmed

its profit forecast for 2009 and 2010, which followed strong

quarterly

numbers. In its recent second-quarter results, IBM boosted its pre-tax margin by four points, its biggest margin improvement since it sold off its PC business to

Lenovo

in 2005. Despite seeing revenue dip 3% year over year, the firm also expanded its gross margin by 2 points.

IBM, which competes with H-P,

Sun Microsystems

(JAVA)

and Microsoft, also

raised its dividend

earlier this year.

The tech bellwether's stock closed down $1.71, or 1.43%, at $117.9 Thursday, as the Nasdaq slumped 3.06%.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York