Sometimes it's hard to remember the old days, when growth stocks were expected to outperform expectations or be summarily punished by investors. These days, the cold, hard reality of recession makes investors a more forgiving lot. I expect none will be too harsh on wireless-technology kingpin Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), even though its business looked very flat compared to last year.

Yesterday, the technology developer and chipmaker reported $2.75 billion in quarterly revenue and net income of $737 million -- both essentially matching amounts from the same period a year ago. Operating cash flow did take a big jump, however, rising 47% to $1.09 billion.

While Qualcomm has enjoyed the luxury of avoiding massive layoffs and program cuts, the company has been prudent in aligning its business activities with the current climate; it cut expenses by 4% compared to last year. A good chunk of that reduced spending came from the absence of litigation. Now that it has settled with both Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM), Qualcomm has finally ended legal battles that contributed to costs of more than $200 million per year.

Essentially zero growth on the top and bottom line doesn't exactly bolster a case for investing in Qualcomm, especially while the company trades at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of more than 22. But the gobs of cash Qualcomm throws out do make a strong counterargument; pro forma free cash flow topped $1 billion this quarter. And observers expect that solid growth should return in the future, as the wireless industry adjusts to the new climate.

Like many other companies, Qualcomm also sees connected netbooks playing a big part in its future. With wireless operators such as AT&T (NYSE:T) and Sprint (NYSE:S) already offering heavily subsidized netbooks, and other tech giants like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) making popular software applications available to all sorts of mobile devices, Qualcomm once again stands to reap the benefits by selling the core chips that keep electronics connected at high speed.

So while Qualcomm's latest earnings were not exactly impressive, the company remains well-positioned to profit from future generations of all sorts of connected devices.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock has a habit of breaking out in song and dance when he wins at bingo. He owns shares of Qualcomm and is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Microsoft, Nokia, and Sprint Nextel are Inside Value picks. The Fool's disclosure policy takes its chances with the tacos sold on the street in Mexico.