I really like the way Atheros (NASDAQ:ATHR) keeps a laser-sharp focus on its core competency, which is making the chips that power various forms of data networks. It's just that this concentration can have funny side effects sometimes.

It's kind of like oven manufacturer Middleby (NASDAQ:MIDD), which distinguishes between two operating segments that I couldn't tell apart for the life of me. Hey, Pete -- is that a commercial oven, or an industrial oven? In the case of Atheros, management talks about 802.11g products and 802.11n chips as if they were worlds apart, whereas a less myopic competitor like Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) would for the most part lump them together into a wireless-networking division, and it's almost a throwaway side project for Intel (NASDAQ:INTC).

I've become so attached to the narrow philosophy that last quarter's entry into wired networking with a new Ethernet solution raised my hackles. I'm now assured that it was for the best -- that Atheros simply wanted to present a more balanced product portfolio to system integrators wanting all their networking chips from one supplier. Those chips helped get this quarter's revenue over the $100 million mark for the first time. Fair enough -- at least it's still networking.

That intense attention to detail means that management doesn't waste any time sorting out which market to attack, because there's really only one way to go. Manufacturing lines, sales and marketing efforts, and customer relationships are easy to build and maintain without distractions, and the strategy has certainly rewarded shareholders -- Middleby has been a six-bagger and more since its original Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation in 2003, and Atheros has gained 64% after its introduction to the same newsletter only nine months ago.

So as for the funny side effects I mentioned earlier -- I meant funny as in ha-ha, not funny like a month-old fish sandwich you forgot in the trunk of your car. Don't ask me what it was doing there in the first place -- it's your food, not mine.

Further Foolishness:

Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick, and both Atheros and Middleby live in the Motley Fool Hidden Gems subdivision of Fooldom. You can look at either service free for the first 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here and has no food of any kind in his car. At least that's what he thinks. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is mighty tasty, whether baked in a commercial oven or an industrial one.