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I can't help but pay attention to Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) these days. Three straight "whiff" quarters (at least according to the Street) leaves shares at $19, trading for about 10x FCF.

Here are a few questions I'm trying to answer as I learn the company, so if anyone out there has the answers (or other insights), let me know...

1. Everyone says "massive switching costs" are the key to Cisco's competitive advantage. I
need to understand the sales cycle better, and learn the key factors that go into the purchase
decision to actually define what that means.

2. Everyone likes to say CSCO has $40 billion in cash, but clearly some of that (probably much
of it) is locked up abroad and can't be distributed to shareholders without getting massively
taxed. So we're left with that cash as fuel for foreign-based acquisitions...

3. While CSCO claims that acquisitions are a "core competency," I'm a bit more skeptical. Is
Cisco, in fact, any good at making acquisitions?

4. Competition globally is well-heeled, and in Asia, is treated preferably (at least
in China).

5. Cisco is a big boat that needs to remain nimble and entrepreneurial. This is tough to do.

Nevertheless, CEO John Chambers recently said:

"I am the most optimistic I have ever been a bout this company."

If he's telling the truth, this is a buying opportunity.

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