When investors think of cloud computing and software virtualization, it generally elicits images of exciting, fast-growing industries in a cutting-edge space. But alas, however advanced its products might be, slow and steady seems to be the name of the game for software virtualization specialist Citrix Systems (NASDAQ:CTXS) today.

Shares of Citrix fell more than 5% during Wednesday's after-hours trading, after the company announced that third-quarter revenue climbed just 6.5% to $759 million. That was below not only Citrix's own guidance for sales of $765 to $775 million, but also analysts' expectations for $771.8 million.

Meanwhile, Citrix's adjusted net income fell by more than 5% year over year to $125 million. To Citrix's credit, however, through a combination of share repurchases and improving operational efficiencies, adjusted earnings per share simultaneously increased by almost 8% to $0.75. By comparison, both analysts' estimates and the high end of Citrix's guidance called for earnings of just $0.73 per share.

Citrix CEO Mark Templeton summed it up well:

I am pleased with our operational and strategic performance in Q3. While our results are clearly mixed, we executed well in many important areas, including product releases, go-to market investments, and partnership initiatives, all while maintaining focus on operational refinements and profitability. 

Perspective is in order
Citrix's core product license revenue fell 4% during the quarter. The majority of Citrix's bookings declines, Templeton elaborated, came from the broad, project-specific segment within its Mobile and Desktop business, where it has already seen sluggish demand all year.

Even so, Mobile and Desktop revenue still managed to increase by 3% year over year to $393 million, helped both by an impressive 90% jump in sales for Citrix's XenMobile solution, and a 50% increase in Citrix Service Provider revenue. With regard to mobile solutions in particular, Citrix saw 75% of all mobile customers opt for their complete XenMobile Enterprise Edition, which speaks to its advantages over competing standalone mobility solutions from Citrix's peers.  

In addition, Citrix saw a reasonably strong performance from its Networking and Cloud business, sales from which rose 6% to $155 million. And just like last quarter, that was led by low-double-digit growth in its popular NetScaler line of products. That said, it still marks a deceleration from the 9% year-over-year growth in Networking and Cloud, which Citrix achieved only last quarter. 

Next, sales for Citrix's software as a service-delivered mobile apps, listed under its Communications and Documents Cloud segment, grew 12% to $165 million. That performance was led by a 50% increase in ShareFile sales, as well as a 13% increase in Communications Cloud products -- the latter of which now comprises around 60% of overall SaaS revenue.

Here's what to expect next
Finally, Citrix continues to expect the strongest forward growth from NetScaler, XenMobile, Service Providers, and other mobile apps. Given their recent results, however, the company is choosing to remain cautious on expectations for its larger desktop and app virtualization businesses until they see better traction develop going forward.

As a result, for the full year 2014, Citrix lowered its net revenue guidance to a range of $3.13 billion to $3.14 billion, and then narrowed its range for adjusted earnings per diluted share to $3.22 to $3.25. The midpoint of both ranges sits just below analysts' expectations for earnings of $3.24 per share on sales of $3.18 billion.

In the end, I'll admit that Citrix's results aren't exactly riveting, and it's frustrating for investors to watch the desktop and app virtualization businesses languish. But at the same time, it's encouraging that Citrix's emerging businesses, however small they might be, continue to perform exceptionally well. While I can't blame the market for bidding down shares of Citrix today, I think it's definitely worth adding Citrix to your watchlist to keep an eye on its progress over the next few quarters.