To everything (Turn! Turn! Turn!),
There is a season (Turn! Turn! Turn!),
And a time for every purpose under Heaven.
A time of love, a time of hate,
A time of war, a time of peace,
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing.
-- From Ecclesiastes 3:1 (by way of Pete Seeger, and The Byrds as No. 1 hit Turn! Turn! Turn!)

OK, I'm disappointed in VMware (NYSE:VMW) today.

My thesis on the virtualization expert has been that hard times beget corporate budget cuts, which in turn begets more efficient use of existing IT hardware. That would mean more VMware orders, because the company's products help IT managers squeeze more use out of existing computing assets, while also making IT management simpler and easier. Sounds like a recipe for recession success, right?

Well, no, it's not turning out that way in reality. Sales ticked in at $470 million -- a mere 7% increase over last year's $438 million, and down 9% from last quarter. It's the first sequential sales downtick in VMware's public history (short as it is), and it comes at a time when I really expected continued growth for the reasons we already covered. So yeah, I'm disappointed.

That doesn't mean I'm ready to give up on the company, though. Despite the disappointing revenue, VMware squeezed $0.18 of net income per share out of that meager top-line haul -- a 64% jump from last year's $0.11 per share. And over $190 million of free cash flow was a hefty 142% flogging of the $80 million seen in 2008. VMware remains a cash machine even when the growth engines are stalling.

Maybe a few customers were waiting for product upgrades before plunking down their hard-earned cash. VMware released a major revision of its core virtual server products this week, and fresh software often brings out both new customers and plenty of upgrades. Just check out how Adobe Systems' (NASDAQ:ADBE) Creative Suite 4 launch worked out (hint: it was pretty juicy), and then ask Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) why they keep rolling out new versions of their databases, operating systems, and whatnots. Upgrade cycles matter.

So the vSphere 4 launch could show results in the second-quarter report. Likewise, VMware plays a large part in Cisco's (NASDAQ:CSCO) brand-new Unified Computing initiative, which could also turn into a revenue driver for both companies. But this sad sales performance may have shaken investor confidence in VMware, and the EMC (NYSE:EMC) spin-off's stock will probably suffer until we see some real signs of improvement.

Until the next report, then, I'm watching VMware with a wary eye -- this is probably not the right time to buy in, in spite of today's massive discount.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Today's nod to National Poetry Month comes from the oldest No. 1-selling songwriter in history -- King Solomon. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.