Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Since Robert Moffat became embroiled in the biggest hedge fund insider trading scandal to date last fall, the speculation about just who might be the next chief executive officer at (NYSE: IBM) has been an even bigger cause for speculation.

Now Bloomberg news brings the issue out into the wide open spaces of Wall Street news with an in-depth report Friday about the transition from Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano to someone-to-be-named.

IBM, which employs some 10,000 people in RTP, could end up with either its first black or female CEO, Bloomberg’s Katie Hoffman speculates, citing several sources.

“[R]aising the possibility of the first female or first black CEO in the 99-year-old company’s history,” is how Bloomberg phrased the speculation talk.

Moffat, who had many Triangle connections with IBM’s PC division and its 2005 buyer, Lenovo, had been widely considered best bet to succeed Palmisano. What’s triggered heightened talk now is that Palmisano is on the verge of turning 60 – the traditional age for a Big Blue top exec to step aside, as Bloomberg notes.

“Palmisano hasn’t named a president or chief operating officer, which may be evidence he doesn’t plan to step down at 60. That hasn’t stopped speculation about the succession in the halls of the company’s Armonk, New York, headquarters,” Bommberg noted.

Palmisano became CEO in 2002, moving up from the COO spot, and added the chairman title later that year.

So who might replace Palmisano if he does in fact step aside?

Bloomberg stresses several possibilities:

Ginni Rometty: “One leading candidate is Ginni Rometty, who has overseen IBM’s sales effort for more than a year. Before that, she headed global business services where she spearheaded the integration of PwC Consulting, the company’s second-largest acquisition and a key step in shifting its strategic focus to services.”

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Or Rod Adkins, who replaced Moffat as head of IBM’s technology group.

“Another possibility is Rod Adkins, also 51, who heads IBM’s hardware group and supply chain. Adkins, who is black, is a member of the company’s technology team, which oversees IBM’s technical strategy.”

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Also on the possible successor list, says Bloomberg, are Mike Daniels, who directs global technical services, and Frank Kern, who runs global business services.

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