When reports surfaced last month that IBM (NYSE:IBM) planned to ship as many as 5,000 jobs to India and other parts of the world, the worrywarts piled on. With good reason, as it turned out.

Big Blue reported $21.71 billion in first-quarter revenue, down 11%. That's roughly $800 million less than the average analyst estimate, according to Reuters. A stronger dollar was at least partly to blame; revenue fell just 4% after adjusting for currency fluctuations, management said.

Even so, it appears that IBM's cost-cutting measures -- which I thought it was making to prepare for a deal with Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA) -- were more necessary than optimistic. The good news? Making them early paid off.

Big Blue turned a top-line miss into a bottom-line beat. Diluted per-share earnings rose 4% to $1.70, besting the Street consensus by $0.03. Huge buybacks -- thinning shares outstanding by 4.4% -- fueled most of the gains.

Yet IBM arguably has as much (if not more) cause for optimism than Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) or Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), both of which reported good results last week. "We remain ahead of pace for our 2010 roadmap of $10 to $11 per share," IBM CEO Sam Palmisano said in a statement. Big Blue's management also reiterated full-year 2009 guidance of $9.20 per share.

It'll have to hit that mark without the benefit of Sun, which Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) acquired yesterday for $5.6 billion net of cash, or $9.50 per share. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), meanwhile, recently introduced a new box of blade servers it calls "Matrix" to help battle Big Blue, Oracle/Sun, and would-be server usurper Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO).

A tough economy. Tough competitors. Things never get easy for IBM, but the company's more than making do all the same.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Google, and stock positions in IBM and Oracle, at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. After 15 years, the Fool's disclosure policy still earns its keep.