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Turnabout Is Fair Play: Google Sues The Feds For Not Considering Its Office Alternative

Google has been on the receiving end of several investigations and complaints from US government agencies. Now Google is taking the offensive and is suing one of them, the Department of Interior in this case, for reportedly not considering Google Apps and only considering Microsoft software in a recent agency procurement round for its 88,000 employees.

The complaint alleges that Google unsuccessfully tried to engage the Interior Department in discussions surrounding consideration of Google Apps. However, the agency later put at a request for quote (RFQ) that apparently specified only the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (federal) could be considered. Google is now suing, saying that this decision violates the federal “Competition in Contracting Act” (CICA). Here’s a short summary of what CICA provides (from a US government report explaining the Act):

Any procurement contract not entered into through the use of procurement procedures expressly authorized by a particular statute is subject to the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA). CICA requires that contracts be entered into after ‘full and open competition through the use of competitive procedures’ unless certain circumstances exist that would permit agencies to use noncompetitive procedures.

There are a number of circumstances where CICA doesn’t apply or where exceptions exist. The question before the court will be whether the Interior Department’s behavior fell within an exception to the statute, in this case the “limited source justification.”

Regardless of the merits of the claim and potential outcome of the case, which will likely be settled with the government having to consider Google, the willingness to sue here seems to indicate Google’s seriousness  in competing with Microsoft for government (and education) business up and down the line.

It’s hard to get an exact sense of exactly how many users of Google Apps are out there; some have estimated it’s more than 50 million users. (If GMail by itself counts, then undoubtedly.) A Google post in March reported that 25 million people have “gone Google.” A more recent post in September said that the overall Google Apps number is over 30 million people and more than 3 million businesses.

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