As I’m posting this, Cisco CEO John Chambers and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer are on stage discussing the future of the technology industry and their shared vision for addressing today’s customer requirements. We are at an inflection point as the industry evolves and the network and software continue to intersect, especially through the Internet. (If you are reading blog post this before 11:30AM ET, you can access the webcast here.)* You can read their joint Q&A here.In a discussion being led by Charlie Rose, the CEOs will highlight areas of collaboration to increase interoperability across the consumer, enterprise, SMB and public sector markets, while acknowledging that the companies still compete in numerous areas. Ten years ago, Microsoft and Cisco became partners, but the partnership was more transactional in nature. Three years ago, the partnership deepened and in the last year it has accelerated to respond to customer needs. They will discuss how the two companies can map out ways to evolve the relationship to further benefit customers and joint channel partners.The interesting dynamic here is this: customers are driving this next wave of transformation and innovation of collaboration between networking and software. Customers should not be expected to make disparate systems work together…their vendors should. From accelerating video over the Internet to unified communications and Web 2.0 technologies in business environments, people want an enhanced, personalized experience. They want technology to work-and they want it to be seamless, secure and simple. New possibilities have raised the bar and open standards and integration have become essentials for customers.And for Cisco, this is a good thing-it is an evolution of the path we’ve been on. We already have a long, successful track record of supporting openness and working with alliance partners. This renewed collaboration with Microsoft is not a major”shift,” our business already thrives on finding ways to better meet customer needs together. Clearly other major industry players are seeing the opportunity partnership can create. The Internet and the ubiquity of the network for anytime, anywhere access and new, rich experience is driving this next era of innovation. Once separate worlds are merging and creating new opportunity for industry collaboration. We think that being transparent and upfront with customers, partners and anyone else who wants to know on where we are working together and where we are competing will bring some clarity to future purchase and partnering decisions. *If you are reading this after 11:30AM ET today, you can watch the replay of this conversation here.