IBM has announced that Virginia Rometty will become president and chief executive officer on January 1, 2012. She is currently an IBM senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy. She will take over from Sam Palmisano, who will stay on as chairman of the board of directors. The world's two largest computer companies will then be run by women. The other is Hewlett-Packard, where Meg Whitman, formerly of eBay, has replaced the ill-starred Léo Apotheker.
"Ginni Rometty has successfully led several of IBM's most important businesses over the past decade -- from the formation of IBM Global Business Services to the build-out of our Growth Markets Unit," said Palmisano in the board's official announcement.
Palmisano, who is 60, will have run IBM successfully for a decade after taking over from Lou Gerstner, who saved the company. Rometty, who is 54, should last at least six years, with 60 being the age at which IBM bosses tend to step down.
According to a report in The New York Times, Rometty's gender was not a factor. "Ginni got it because she deserved it," Palmisano said in an interview. "It's got zero to do with progressive social policies."
Rometty certainly has the right experience. She joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer, and after 30 years, should certainly be familiar with the company's culture. More recently, she has run IBM's huge services business, and she looked after the integration of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, which IBM bought for $3.5 billion in 2002.
IBM usually appoints candidates from inside the company -- Gerstner is the only exception I can think of -- and this has generally worked out pretty well. It used to work pretty well for HP, too, until it appointed Carly Fiorina and things started to go wrong.
Of course, she will have to get used to journalists misspelling her name as "Virginia Rommety". Early culprits include the Huffington Post, SF Gate and The Atlantic Wire, none of them able to get Ginni's surname right in their headlines.