It's a steely pin poked deep into the gut of tech's inflated balloon of optimism, it is. International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) trimmed its global services payroll by roughly 700 employees -- a move scored with the raspberry sound of a balloon deflating.

Skill rebalancing is what IBM is calling it, as management looks to better match its outlook with the skills of its workforce. Euphemism. Coming as this does on the heels of layoffs in the company's software and microchip divisions, maybe money managers are due for a little portfolio rebalancing too.

Why go black and blue on Big Blue? Well, it's just that most people are expecting an increase -- not a decrease -- in tech spending next year. Shouldn't IBM be installing "take a number" machines rather than pink slip dispensers?

Perhaps it sees a high-margin services industry that's about to get a lot more crowded. You're already seeing companies like Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) claim that they view IBM on the services side as its future competitor -- not Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) on the hardware side.

Everyone wants to serve man, but here comes IBM in a Twilight Zone plot twist shouting, "It's a cookbook! It's a cookbook!"

IBM has played games in the past. It has used currency exchange gains to boost results and buried asset sale gains as operating cost savings. Passing off employee cuts as rebalancings rather than blunt assertions that it feels its market share threatened isn't cool. It's like stacking a banquet hall with unused chairs at a poorly attended function and trying to pass it off as standing room only.

Is Big Blue's scaling back a concern? Do you think that IT spending by corporations will increase or decrease in 2004? All this and more -- in the IBM discussion board. Only on