IBM is confident about its earnings outlook for this year and 2010, saying its focus on high-margin software and its geographic diversity would help buffer the impact of a slower economy.

Chief Executive Sam Palmisano said on Wednesday that International Business Machines Corp is still targeting earnings of $10 to $11 per share for 2010, slightly above the average analyst estimate of around $9.90, according to Reuters Estimates.

The company also repeated its earnings forecast of at least $9.20 per share in 2009. That compared with the average analyst forecast of $9.11.

Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge said IBM's targets were possible, even if revenue fell 7 percent in 2009, or if revenue was flat in 2010.

Analysts are expecting revenue to fall 7.5 percent in 2009 and rise 2.1 percent in 2010, according to Reuters Estimates.

Over the past decade, IBM has been shifting its focus to software and services from increasingly commoditized hardware. Palmisano said this means it can rely on a steadier stream of revenue, rather than more volatile equipment sales.

We are not like the other companies in the IT industry, Palmisano said at an annual meeting with analysts in New York. We don't have the dependency.

IBM's first-quarter revenue fell 11 percent from a year earlier, but cost cuts helped limit the fall in net profit.

Palmisano also believed it was now a perfect opportunity to invest in future growth, but the company would not do crazy deals. The priority of any acquisition would be successful integration rather than deal size, he said.

It's not about size, it's about success odds -- can we integrate this, can we get the financial returns, he said.

IBM last month failed to clinch a deal for server and software maker Sun Microsystems Inc , which agreed to be bought by Oracle Corp instead for more than $7 billion.

IBM shares were down 1.8 percent at $102.16 by mid-afternoon.

(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Andre Grenon)