Did a press interview this week and was asked what I thought of the recent HP and Microsoft expanded alliance in Unified Communications. As we prepare to host more than 1,500 partners, press, and analysts next week in Boston and roughly 4,500 virtually for our annual Partner Summit, I thought you’d like to know my response.The HP/Microsoft expanded alliance confirms what Cisco and our channel partners have known for years…the network is critical. This expanded alliance also acknowledges that interoperability is key because data, voice, and video are all important factors of Unified Communications and collaboration. This news only serves to solidify our commitment to deliver — with our channel partners — an open, interoperable solution with companies like Microsoft, Apple, and IBM.Cisco remains the only company currently offering customers a seamless collaboration experience through software, devices, networking, interoperability, and channel partner expertise. Time will tell if HP and Microsoft’s joint $180 million (US) investment will be enough in terms of development and integration to fix the holes in their combined portfolio. This leaves customers to decide if they want to wait for a combined solution from HP/Microsoft or deploy a proven, interoperable Unified Communications solution from Cisco today. As for channel partners, I’m not sure what their role is in this expanded alliance; it appears, per the press release, HP would handle most deployment and professional services for the joint solution.Look forward to seeing you in Boston or in the Virtual Partner Summit.