Google sues US Interior Department over email system contract

Google has sued the US Department of Interior over its insistence to include Microsoft software in a new email system, citing undue restriction of competition.

It’s argued that the Department’s request intentionally excluded Google Apps by insisting that the system must include Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, and now Google is adamant the Interior Department must complete a competitive procurement process before awarding any contracts.

Considering the kicking Google have been getting recently over certain privacy issues it must undoubtedly be enjoying its new-found moral high ground, accusing the agency of being “unduly restrictive of competition,” especially since it is under increased scrutiny by the US government at the moment.

“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 spokesman for Google told the Wall Street Journal.

Both the Department for the Interior and Microsoft have nothing to say.

The suit, which has been filed in the US Court of Federal Claims, is aiming to level the playing field for acquiring government contracts.  The Interior Department contract, which is for a web-based email and collaboration platform to replace 13 systems currently used by its 88,000 staff, is worth $59million alone over the next five years.

It is a lucrative market and Google seems intent on increasing its share.  Google is also in direct competition with Microsoft for a contract that will provide email for the General Services Administration. This particular contract also has further potential significance for future business as the GSA oversees procurement and manages federal property, as well as influencing the ways in which other government agencies acquire new technology.

Google has been having some success with federal agencies to move to Google Apps with the Department of Energy offering 5,000 email accounts at their Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, while over 10 agencies have begun introducing pilots of Google Apps.

Further companies in the private sector have also been taking up Google Apps, though it is believed that many companies believe that Microsoft offers a much more secure system to Google’s, which, like its smartphones, is evidently not too impressive.

Interior officials have apparently told Google that it was in fact committed to open competition, although it had standardised Microsoft technology, according tothe  Wall Street Journal.

The Interior Department also raised concerns over Google’s security issues, claiming that it was unable to meet all the necessary criteria for the contract.