Google got a boost in its battle versus Microsoft when a federal judge froze the Department of Interior from accepting Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite for e-mail and collaboration software.
Federal Judge Susan Braden issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the Interior Department from deciding to use Microsoft BPOS for its 88,000 employees without mulling Google Apps as an option. The five-year deal is worth up to $60 million.
The stay comes two months after Google sued the agency, asking that it be enjoined from pursuing a contract with Microsoft because the department's request for proposal unfairly excluded Google Apps by stating the system had to include Microsoft BPOS.
Braden agreed that the Interior Department may have violated rules about competition in contracting. She said the agency must reconsider and that the department's exclusion of Google Apps "cannot be explained as an oversight."
Braden's word is hardly final; the Department can appeal any final decision by her to a higher court.
A Google spokesperson told eWEEK, "As a proponent of open competition on the Internet and in the technology sector in general, we're pleased with the court's decision."
Microsoft argued that the Interior Department concluded Google Apps did not meet minimum security requirements, while BPOS did.
"The judge's decision does not address this fundamental determination. We believe the full record will demonstrate that this award is in the best interest of the government and taxpayers."
The department may have a tough time arguing this claim with Braden and any appeals court considering that Google this summer won FISMA certification from the General Service Administration, which found the suite secure enough for its own use.
The GSA would go on to tap Google to provide an e-mail and collaboration software contract for its 15,000 employees. Microsoft would achieve FISMA from the GSA later.
However, the Interior Department might have some wiggle room for its justification. Other government groups recognized FISMA, but all have different levels of requirements that must be met.
Google's small victory is likely ringing loud in the halls of Google's enterprise group, which has been slugging it out with Microsoft to win highly coveted government contracts.
Google is the current cloud collaboration market leader, with more than 3 million businesses on Google Apps. But Microsoft's enterprise clout from the last 20 years of legacy e-mail makes it the prohibitive favorite for most traditional large businesses.
Securing government deals, which cover hundreds of thousands of federal employees, puts more wood behind cloud computing systems because it signals to enterprises what solutions are safe and reliable.
The bidding has intensified as federal agencies have a government-wide goal of migrating their existing e-mail systems from on-premises solutions such as Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Notes to the cloud.
Google also argued it was shut out from consideration by the U.S. Agriculture Department, which agreed to move 120,000 to Microsoft BPOS in December.