Oilfield services leader Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB) may be an 800-pound gorilla, but even a big ape can get its clock cleaned occasionally. That's precisely what occurred with the company's share price on Friday after it released December results that didn't measure up to expectations.

For the quarter, the company earned $1.38 billion, or $1.12 a share, up 22% on the net income line from last year's $1.13 billion, or $0.92 a share. But if you back out the increase that resulted from an asset sale and a more favorable tax rate, the real per-share earnings figure was meaningfully below the $1.13 the dart throwers had been anticipating.

The market didn't smile favorably on the company's results. At midday on Friday, Schlumberger's shares were down more than 10% before later gaining strength and cutting that loss roughly in half. Further, the results, which were delivered with relative caution for the near term, were largely responsible for declines in the shares of other major oilfield services companies Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI), and BJ Services (NYSE: BJS).

My strong feeling is that there are two distinct ways to view Schlumberger's results: In the short term, and as CEO Andrew Gould said, the company's growth prospects are "more complex" than in recent quarters. Among the factors clouding this outlook are an expected lack of growth in North American natural gas drilling and a lack of expansion in the existing offshore rig fleet.

Indeed, in the most recent quarter, the former consideration led to lower pricing in U.S. land operations. In concert with seasonal weather surprises, it was largely responsible for the somewhat disappointing results.

But for the longer term, and as Mr. Gould also noted, "...current levels of drilling are insufficient to meaningfully slow [production] decline rates, improve reservoir recover, or add sufficient new production capacity." Among the growth drivers, he pointed to the number of rigs on order and scheduled for delivery "through and beyond the end of the decade," along with robust plans throughout the industry to "increase both capex and research and development."

Simply put, the world will need to dramatically expand its energy production in the years ahead, and Schlumberger is the clear leader in helping the producers find and recover oil and gas. So if you're a short-term investor, shame on you, but please steer clear of the oilfield service names. But if you're inclined to invest for a relatively longer horizon, the gorilla's pullback could make it well worth your scrutiny.

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Alas, Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that, at its last weigh-in, had become a 917-pound gorilla.