theodp writes: In his Centennial Conversation at the Computer History Museum, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano emphasized the importance of investing in R&D, even in a down economy. 'Shareholder expectations for higher returns don't diminish when the economy stutters,' said Sam. 'And yet, Tom Watson Sr. actually increased research investment during the Great Depression.' Palmisano added, 'I will tell you that my own instinctive reflex isn't to continue investing $6 billion a year during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. In that regard, I'm like all CEOs.' Yes, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, Sam Palmisano is no Tom Watson. And while he didn't mention it in his speech, just days earlier, Palmisano exercised an option for 300,000 IBM shares at $97.59, which were immediately unloaded for more than $50 million at prices ranging from $178.72-$183.63 (IBM closed Friday at $157.54). Watson, by the way, famously refused to grant stock options to himself and other execs.