Yesterday was a tough day for Blue Coat Systems (Nasdaq: BCSI). While fellow security expert McAfee (NYSE: MFE) got taken on a starlit buyout ride by Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), Blue Coat could only button down in preparation for a rather grim earnings report. It's never fun to be on the outside looking in -- especially when Blue Coat's network-oriented security products seem like a better fit for Intel's connected ambitions than McAfee's standard set of on-system applications.

That said, maybe Blue Coat's offerings just don't excite Intel -- or the company's own customers, for that matter. First-quarter sales improved by a rickety 6% year-over-year to $123 million -- including a $1 million windfall from the adoption of new revenue recognition rules. That's the kind of growth you'd expect out of a sleepy giant like Dell or Microsoft, not from a small-cap like Blue Coat with tons of room to move and grow.

GAAP earnings did improve from $0.09 per share a year ago to $0.29 per share today, but that's a move I'd explain with a remarkably bad quarter a year ago. Cost-cutting and operating efficiencies are great and all, but you'd expect sales to bounce back as well.

That's where the good news comes in. Management blames poor sales execution in Europe for the miss. It's very much to Blue Coat's credit that CEO Gordon Brooks highlighted this weakness rather than blaming the general issues of the European economy, and the company is taking steps to remedy the situation.

If all goes well across the pond, there's no reason why Blue Coat should continue to suffer while the security market as a whole is a hot commodity. Symantec (Nasdaq: SYMC) management is buying shares and Check Point Software Technologies (Nasdaq: CHKP) creates value for shareholders.

Will Blue Coat turn the European ship around and catch up to the rest of the market? Honest management is a great first sign in my opinion. Continue the discussion in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here, but the Fool sure does: Intel and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Check Point Software Technologies is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. The Fool owns shares of and has written puts on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.