Virginia Rometty, a senior sales and marketing vice president at IBM, has been tapped to become the company's next chief executive officer at the end of this year, the company announced. Sam Palmisano, IBM's current chairman, will carry on as IBM's chairman of the board.

The appointment continues a history of orderly, internal successions at IBM. Mr. Palmisano, 60, has served as CEO since 2002 when he succeeded Lou Gerstner. Ms. Rometty, 54 becomes the first woman to hold the CEO role at IBM. Observers note that 60 is a traditional retirement age for top executives at the company.

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