Google Sues Interior Department Over Mail Contract

Nobody likes coming in second place but what if you weren't even allowed in the race? That's Google's complaint against the U.S. Department of the Interior.


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Google sued the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) late last week after the department awarded a contract to provide e-mail and collaboration services for its employees to archenemy Microsoft -- although the software titan is not a defendant in the case, at least so far.

In a 37-page complaint, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) claims that the DOI improperly awarded the contract to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). The so-called "Bid Protest" was filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Oct. 29.

Google's attorneys allege that the DOI excluded the search firm's similar messaging and productivity offerings by requiring that the winning bid only use Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) Federal edition. Some 88,000 DOI users are at stake to the two technology giants.

BPOS is a cloud-hosted set of services built on Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online (formerly Office Communications Server). In February, Microsoft announced BPOS for Federal, a secure-version for governments.

In fact, Microsoft has won several high-profile government cloud services deals in recent months, mostly with state agencies. The company claims to number 500 governmental bodies among the list of customers for its various cloud services.

However, Google and Microsoft have increasingly tangled over such contracts.

Google won a very visible contract to provide similar services to the city of Los Angeles this time last year.

"Plaintiffs protest DOI's specification of the Microsoft BPOS Federal solution on the grounds that such specification is unduly restrictive in competition in violation of the Competition in Contracting Act," the filing states. "[Additionally,] the DOI's 'Limited Source Justification' constitutes a sole-source procurement that is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise contrary to law," it continued.

The complaint was posted online by Scribd, and several other sites.

Google's attorneys said the company had repeatedly tried to get the DOI to reconsider its own offering -- Google Apps -- but were ultimately rebuffed. The search and Gmail provider is joined in its suit by Onix Networking Corp., a Google reseller in Ohio.

In its filing, Google asked for preliminary and permanent injunctions against the DOI proceeding further with the project, or with any similar procurements, without complying with "applicable statutory and regulatory requirements."

Microsoft declined to comment for this story. Attempts to contact the DOI's office of CIO were unsuccessful.

"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," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

Tags: cloud computing, Google, Microsoft, lawsuits, Email management

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