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Invitation to a Perfectly Boring Party: Microsoft, Cisco

The common theme among growing technology companies such as Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) is precisely that -- they are growing. However with Wall Street's insatiable appetite for growth, any success demonstrated by these companies only perpetuates higher growth expectations, regardless of how ridiculous the expectations become. It's a never-ending cycle.

Two companies that have been cast by the wayside due to lack of growth appeal are software giant Microsoft (MSFT) and the networking equipment maker Cisco (CSCO). I have begun to wonder whether should we still categorize them as "technology companies" because it has become evident that Wall Street doesn't.

Although I don't own either company at this point, I have spent a significant portion of the first half of the year defending them as if I did. I have been an unabashed apologist whenever I hear these companies are unable to grow. True, the '90s are long gone. But that does not mean either company has reached the point of insignificance.

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More than half of the Internet is powered by Cisco's equipment. Microsoft remains the dominant PC operating system with both consumers and the enterprise market. Yet, in the minds of many investors, these two are dead. In fact, real life death experiences such as what is happening at Research In Motion (RIMM) and Nokia (NOK) often generate more interest.

Microsoft's stock traded relatively flat over the past decade; Wall Street does not care much for the company's management, as it has done little to inspire confidence and produce the rate of growth that investors crave.

To some extent, the same can be said about Cisco and the criticism that its CEO, John Chambers, has had to endure over the past several years. Fairly or unfairly, both companies are now more often regarded for what they are not instead of being credited for what they are.

Meanwhile Cisco continues to churn out one good quarter after another -- essentially five consecutive earnings beats where most recently it reported Q3 earnings of $0.48 per share. The company reported net income of $2.2 billion or $0.40 per share on revenue of $11.6 billion -- topping net income of $1.8 billion or $0.33 per share for the same period last year. So what exactly is the problem? It's a case of "relative analysis."

Should the fact that neither Microsoft nor Cisco is growing at the rate of Amazon (AMZN) and Apple continue to force the market to look at them differently? Are they now in a separate class of techs or are they considered techs at all? I wonder what will it take for all of this to change?

It seems that both companies have arrived at mature statuses and to keep their "growth" status will need to find new markets beyond their core competencies. Cisco tried this with the Flip camera, Linksys router and to some extent its acquisition of Scientific Atlanta and failed.

Nonetheless, both have loads of cash and are one acquisition away from generating some real excitement. Microsoft will soon unveil its Surface tablet and has recently acquired Yammer on the heels of its Skype acquisition one year ago.

So it is not out of the question that growth just might be right around the corner. Whatever the case, it's getting progressively difficult to stay optimistic on both names even though I think the shares are trading at attractive levels.

Perhaps Wall Street is right and I'm the one being stubborn.

At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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