I recently wrote that plans to fire lots of workers won't solve the underlying problem at Pfizer ( PFE) and Motorola ( MOT): lousy product innovation.

If you survey the stock market landscape, you'll find more former predictable growth stocks that now offer the same uncertainty that Pfizer and Motorola do. That, of course means that an investor shouldn't pay the same high price-to-earnings ratio now for the less predictable growth of a Coca-Cola ( KO), a Citigroup ( C), an Intel ( INTC) or a Dell ( DELL).

And it means that the relatively fewer growth companies still pumping out predictable double-digit growth, such as a Procter & Gamble ( PG) or a PepsiCo ( PEP), deserve a higher multiple.

The most interesting -- and potentially most profitable -- cases are those once-great predictable growth companies that are now on the cusp. Will a company such as McDonald's ( MCD) return to the ranks of those companies able to produce predictable double-digit growth? Should investors think of Cisco Systems ( CSCO) as belonging to this category? And is Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) going to defy skeptics and keep pumping out that growth?

Sometimes it feels like the universe of great, predictable growth stocks has become very small indeed. But, fortunately, investors are witnessing the emergence of a new generation of growth stocks in the developing economies of the world. That's a topic for another day, however.

New Developments on Past Columns

" Five Buys for a Fourth-Quarter Rally": There's no place to hide, but a few spots in the supply chain do provide some shelter from the storm. In 2006, the average selling price for a 42-inch LCD television fell by almost 50%, according to iSuppli. That crushed profit margins at the companies that manufacture the sets.

Corning ( GLW), which supplies the glass for screens to setmakers, certainly didn't escape the squeeze on prices as selling price for its glass tumbled in 2006. But the decline was a relatively less punishing 20%, according to Pacific Crest Securities, and that difference was enough to enable Corning to beat Wall Street estimates by 3 cents, or better than 10%, for the December 2006 quarter.

On Jan. 24, the company reported earnings of 31 cents a share, up from a 2-cents-a-share loss in the fourth quarter of 2005. Revenue climbed by 14%. Corning isn't out of the woods yet, since the first half of 2007 is likely to be weak because of typical seasonal weakness in the first quarter -- when Wall Street is looking for just 7% earnings growth -- and continued pressure on glass and TV set prices.

Indeed, the company cut its guidance for the first quarter of the year by a penny and predicted a 10% to 15% drop in display volumes. As of Jan. 31, I'm extending my target price of $28 from June to December 2007. (Full disclosure: I own shares of Corning in my personal portfolio.)

At the time of publication, Jubak owned or controlled shares of Corning and PepsiCo.

Jim Jubak is senior markets editor for MSN Money. He is a former senior financial editor at Worth magazine and editor of Venture magazine. Jubak was a Bagehot Business Journalism Fellow at Columbia University and has written two books: "The Worth Guide to Electronic Investing" and "In the Image of the Brain: Breaking the Barrier Between the Human Mind and Intelligent Machines." As an investor, he says he believes the conventional wisdom is always wrong -- but that he will nonetheless go with the herd if he believes there's a profit to be made. He lives in New York. While Jubak cannot provide personalized investment advice or recommendations, he appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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