IBM 2012 Annual Meeting of Stockholders
The first web question that was addressed at the meeting related to whether IBM should split its stock. Mr. Palmisano explained that there are many ways that IBM returns value to its stockholders; the company has returned over $137 billion in the form of dividends and share buybacks since 2000. Mr. Palmisano indicated that the company has analyzed the extent to which IBM's stock splits have created stockholder value over the short term, as well as over an annual period of time, as compared to the S&P 500. He noted that there hasn't been any quantitative proof that there's an effect on the actual share price relative to the broader market after a stock split.
The next web question that was addressed concerned the commercialization of Watson. Ms. Rometty indicated that there have only been three generations of computing. The first generation was comprised of machines that counted; next came machines that were programmable, which is what we know today. The third generation of computing is embodied by Watson: a system that can learn over time.
Ms. Rometty noted that in addition to being able to learn, Watson understands the English language in context; because of those capabilities, Watson is being used in the healthcare context. Most recently, we have been working with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to help physicians with both diagnosing and choosing the proper treatments for cancer patients. She indicated that the initial focus of these efforts is on lung, breast and prostate cancer.
Ms. Rometty further noted that Watson would also be commercialized in the financial services industry. One of the first solutions would enhance retail banking for consumers.
The final web question addressed was about opportunities for IBM from social media and social networking. Ms. Rometty indicated that these forms of communication, as well as tools like smartphones, create an opportunity for IBM and our clients. For example, we can use our Smarter Analytics to analyze the large amounts of available information, and IBM's Smarter Commerce helps companies deal with processes and customers. IBM's Social Business has allowed us to create an enterprise-secure set of software for social media; Ms. Rometty added that this is reflected in the form of a product called IBM Connections, which now has 600,000 users comprised of IBMers and IBM partners. She concluded that these social tools create excellent opportunities for IBM's business.