Is the growth-darling honeymoon over for virtual computing pioneer VMware (NYSE: VMW)?

The company just reported a mighty fine fourth quarter with 37% year-over-year sales growth and double the earnings. Both the reported results and forward guidance put analyst consensus firmly in the rearview mirror. And then the stock opened more than 5% lower the next morning. Nice hangover, dude.

These are not weak numbers by any stretch of the imagination. Also, the price drop is a bit too big to be explained away as profit-taking -- though that angle does make some sense in the light of VMware doubling in the last year, and tripling over 24 months.

No, the honeymoon is over. I like VMware for its leading position in the virtualization market, where even mighty Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is playing catch-up. It's harder to like the nosebleed-inducing price-to-earnings ratio at 125 times trailing earnings. That's a huge growth premium on top of the fundamentals, and VMware is getting too big for those breeches. The law of large numbers surely applies.

That said, VMware remains a technology leader and is still growing very swiftly. It also lives up to its Rule Breaker moniker by reporting "a strong budget flush" trend while networking specialist F5 Networks (Nasdaq: FFIV) recently complained about a lack of said trend.

Should VMware investors resign themselves to compressed multiples from now on, reflecting a more mature business with slower growth? Much of the low-hanging fruit may have been picked already, making future growth harder to come by. Yes, even if virtualization itself remains the hot ticket of choice -- smaller players Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) and Citrix Systems (Nasdaq: CTXS) may actually be better positioned to shoplift market share from the established giants to fuel some hypergrowth of their own.

Am I wrong? Does VMware still deserve an insane growth premium? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. VMware is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.