International Business Machines Corp. is trying to transform itself again, as Chief Executive Samuel J. Palmisano races to stay ahead of the technology industry's fast-changing profit curve.
The top priority this time for Big Blue—which famously dumped its personal computer business in 2004 to focus on consulting and services—is software. Mr. Palmisano wants that high-margin business to account for about half of the company's pretax profit by 2015, up from just over a third in 2003.
Specialized software, meanwhile, is harder to replicate and still grows at a high rate and commands high margins. Last year, IBM's pretax profit margin was 18.9%, up from 10.6% in 2003. The company's new goal is to reach a pretax margin of 20% by 2015.