JPMorgan Tech Conference: Juniper Says Customers Spend Less, Think Short Term

SAN FRANCISCO -- Some people like to talk about the slowdown in technology spending as the hangover following the binge that companies went on during the bubble. Well, right now, customers of Juniper Networks (JNPR) are taking things one day at a time.

Or at least one month at a time.

Marcel Gani, CFO of the router company that has been giving Cisco Systems ( CSCO) a run for its money, told investors at the JPMorgan H&Q Technology Conference that its customers are still buying equipment from it, albeit less and for shorter periods.

"Most people are proceeding with design plans, but how it's playing out is that people want to place smaller orders for a shorter time frame," Gani told investors during a breakout session after a formal presentation here. "For instance, if they used to place an order for six months out, now they're doing it for just one month and saying after that, 'I'll tell you if I want more.' "

At the same time, the approval process is lengthening, and more people need to sign off on orders before they go through.

Gani's take on the spending environment is hardly surprising, but it does explain why the company said on its first-quarter conference call that second-quarter revenue likely would be flat, with a risk of up to a 10% decline.

For the year, though, the company said it still expects revenue to grow 85% to 100%. That's faster than the 35%-to-40% growth projected for the overall market, which means the company is likely still expanding its market share.

The underlying market for Internet protocol routers, Juniper's main business, could be spurred even further by business customers who want video-on-demand applications. That type of data-intensive technology plays right into the high-speed routers that Juniper makes.

"One of the big drivers will be video on demand," Gani said. "We see this trend all over the landscape for these new kinds of B2B applications."

Yet at the same time, Gani said that same old Internet shortfall -- a lack of sufficient bandwidth -- could hold back growth at the end of the line.

"What you need to happen is you need to have a network that doesn't have more demand on it. So the rollout of DSL and things like that also needs to go forward," Gani said.

Sounds like the Internet itself might still need its own 12-step program.

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