The 2008 IBM Annual Report was released yesterday, including a letter from Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano.
Although the economic situation continues to be dire, the letter from the Chairman is decidedly upbeat, explaining that "IBM today is a very different company" and that "since the dot-com crash in 2002, we have more than doubled our pre-tax income and free cash flow, and more than tripled our earnings per share. Our standout 2008 continued this record of superior performance."
Great news for IBM shareholders, no doubt, particularly in light of the seemingly endless bad news of late.
But it's not last year's business results that are the most interesting part of the letter.
Rather, it's the teeing up of the opportunity ahead of us that makes it most worth reading, particularly the section entitled "A Smarter Planet."
It begins: "The coming era will not be kind to enterprises or institutions that have failed to step up to unresolved issues in their core models, strategies or operations. In our view, this is not simply a cyclical downturn, but a major shift in the global economy and society — one that is simple to state, but profound in its implications."
How to respond to this shift?
Through "the infusion of intelligence into the way the world actually works: the systems and processes that enable physical goods to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold; services to be delivered; everything from people and money to oil, water and electrons to move; and billions of people to work and live."
There's much, much more, including some very specific examples of this smarter approach to using information technology in business.
You can download the 2008 IBM Annual Report (PDF 4.2MB).