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Google claims in lawsuit that Interior contract's terms favored Microsoft

By Cecilia Kang

Google has filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department claiming that the agency favored competitor Microsoft when considering bids for a new Web-based e-mail system.

In an action filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Friday, Google asked the court to halt the Interior Department’s bidding process, which it says is designed in a way that guarantees Microsoft would win the contract.

The project is worth an estimated $59 million over five years, according to the suit. The Tech Dirt blog reported on the lawsuit earlier Monday.

“Google is a proponent of open competition on the Internet and in the technology sector in general,” a Google spokesman said. “Here, a fair and open process could save U.S. taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and result in better services. We’re asking the Department of Interior to allow for a true competition when selecting its technology providers.”

Google’s lawsuit comes as the Mountain View,Calif.-based search giant faces increased scrutiny from federal lawmakers and regulators over a host of issues ranging from antitrust to the privacy of online users’ data.

In its lawsuit, Google pointed to bidding guidelines that call for including Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite in the project. Google called the requirement “unduly restrictive of competition.”

An Interior Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Microsoft representative could not be reached for comment.

Google’s suit underscores the fierce competition between Google and Microsoft to sell Internet-based software to local and federal governments. The firms tout the ease of accessing e-mail and other applications through an Web browser and promise greater efficiency and lower costs over the long run.

According to Google’s lawsuit, the contested Interior Department contract is designed to bring onto one standard computing platform roughly 88,000 agency employees who currently use 13 different e-mail systems.

Some government agencies that already use Microsoft’s popular Office suite of applications have been reluctant to switch to competitor Google, citing security concerns. Google has dismissed those concerns, saying that its applications are secure.

By Cecilia Kang  | November 1, 2010; 9:00 PM ET
Categories:  Antitrust, Google  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Experts expect tech policy gridlock in contest for control of key House chair
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Google is a sore loser.

Posted by: ahashburn | November 2, 2010 2:41 AM | Report abuse

I am glad to see Google get into the ring. It seems that Interior was trying to take a short cut by requiring a Microsoft application be part of the deliverables.

Posted by: bberschler | November 2, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

DUMB! Sole (source) restrictive specifications are a no-no.

One should always make sure that any "mission essential" specs "leave-the-door-open" for at least 3 bidders. That way the desired contractor can bid and the process would not be risk due to a legitimate protest.

I agree with Google, one should always challenge stupidity.

Posted by: andy3 | November 2, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I don't love Microsoft and have never worked for them but I don't believe Google is the Second Coming either. These are two of the biggest companies on earth duke'in it out.

Does Google's have a real beef? The contract calls for an advanced office suite which Google does not have. Interior is only trying to get all it's IT needs in one software package.

Do you want all your government secret emails going through Google? I know I don't. Face facts, Gmail is all about data mining.

Then there is support. MS has thousands of support folks in the field. Google doesn't even have a public phone number.

In the end it won't matter. Some judge will make the decision based on some obtuse reasoning that will escape the bounds of common sense.

BTW this is history repeating itself. There once was a word processor called Word Perfect that used to be contracted to the government....

Posted by: webguroo | November 2, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Go GOOG! MSFT is a viper with fanged teeth! We learned that from Attorney Boyes's discovery of the Bill Gates predatory emails.

Posted by: JONWINDY | November 2, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

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