2001 was a period of stark transition for IBM. Lou Gerstner was gone, replaced by the more reserved Sam Palmisano. As well, IBM’s business had changed. They were no longer the hardware focused giant of yesteryear. They were a services-focused company building the future through software and cloud storage.
The design of the 2001 annual report conveyed this change visually. A blue gradient connoted transition, while a letter from the outgoing CEO, set starkly on the cover, marked the last time he would speak for IBM. The interior, and the future, belonged to Sam Palmisano.
The beginning chapters of the book were a look at how far the company had come in a few short years. It laid out the difficult decisions the company had made in reinventing itself—laying existential bets on what it believed to be the future.
The report then shifts and begins to look forward. It predicts a bold future—one which IBM could envision because it had, in essence, laid the groundwork for the massive changes which were about to transform enterprise and institutional computing.
Almost 2 decades on, these predictions proved to be mostly true.