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Tech Industry

The Starting Line: Analysts, spare us the prose

Puffy prose, stretched metaphors and clich?s thrive at the intersection of technology and Wall Street--two sectors that refuse to speak plain English.

If you are an investor in technology stocks, stand up and take a bow. You've survived 100-year floods, nuclear winters and economic storms--not to mention quite a collection of clich?s, bad analogies and the wackiest Wall Street prose ever presented.

Wall Street and tech executives just can't provide enough descriptions for current economic woes and sad quarterly results. To make matters worse, analysts are trying to find new ways to tell the same "tech stocks stink" story.

Add it all up and you have a lot of clich?s and mixed metaphors. The bright side? "It's always darkest before the dawn," says one analyst.

Maybe it was Hewlett-Packard's warning that the economy went off "like a light switch" analogy in the beginning of the year. Maybe it was Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers' "100-year (inventory) flood" analogy (let's hope he has a boat). Or it might have been Oracle Chief Financial Officer Jeff Henley's "weather the current economic storm" quotes.

Whatever it was that sparked everyone to talk like this, it needs to stop. We're begging all parties involved to end this paradigm shift of prose immediately.

How did the tech sector get so overwhelmed by weather references, and why are analysts posing as poets?

Blame it on the intersection between technology and Wall Street--two sectors that just refuse to speak plain English.

Picture the standard "where do you want to eat" discussion, Wall Street-style.

    Colleague: Where should we grab lunch?

    Wall Street analyst: Going forward, I think there should be an upside surprise, given the better-than-expected ham and cheese sandwiches across the street.

Now take that same dialogue and apply it to the tech sector.

    Colleague: Where should we grab lunch?

    Programming guru: Let's go across the street. They have a great CRM solution that entails providing the customer with up-to-the-minute data on their sandwiches. It's quite an example of how an integrated solution can make a deli much more efficient and improve ROI.

Purple prose and then some
It doesn't take a linguist to figure out how we got into this mess.

Given that the language police don't stop by Wall Street or Silicon Valley that often, we'd like to leave you a few examples of what we read on any given day. Picking these examples was tough since we've seen Led Zeppelin lyrics, historical references about George Washington and even a little Dr. Seuss weaved into Wall Street reports and CEO comments in recent months.

Here are a few gems to ponder:

    "As I leave my Bloomberg for vacation next week, we expect to see another wave of pre-announcements in our sector. I had planned to spend next week 'relaxing' at a family reunion at Cape Cod. However, given that it involves nine siblings and 27 grandkids under one roof, it still feels like it will be better sitting in front of a Bloomberg alit in red. However, the market doesn't sleep, so here are our thoughts."

That's from a recent report by Credit Suisse First Boston chip analyst Charles Glavin, who predicts there'll be a lot of profit warnings while he's away.

    "The telecommunications spending storm continues to rage on, threatening every ship on the sea. Lightning flashes and thunder claps roar, leaving investors shivering as they cling to their dinghies. Despite these turbulent waters, we continue to see evidence reinforcing the concept that there is still one large island where the seas appear serene. This land is at the core of most public networks and is known as optical transmission systems. Last night we had another glimpse at this island and observed that it appears to be covered with trees, specifically Sycamore trees."

That passage derives from a February Lehman Brothers research report on Sycamore Networks that still prompts a chuckle even though it's a few months old. At the time, Lehman analyst Steven Levy was so happy Sycamore Networks remained upbeat that he gushed himself silly. Since this report, Levy has changed his opinion on Sycamore and downgraded the stock amid profit warnings, but his prose lives on.

Levy argued "the trunk of a Sycamore tree is built on sinewy software that serves as its special value-added sauce" before concluding that the fiber-optic company remains "one of the fastest growing trees on this telecommunications island."

E.B. White, author, essayist and purveyor of style, where are you when we need you?