File this one either under the banner of high-tech discrimination by a U.S. state or sour grapes from a company in the face of growing competition. You pick.
Google, which scored a coup in securing the city of Los Angeles as a Google Apps customer, feels left out of a $60 million e-mail contract with the state of California because it feels the state's requirements were too stringent.
According to the LA Times:
"Google spent months trying to compete in the contract bidding process but never formally joined the race because state officials drew up a lengthy list of requirements the company said were impossible for it to meet. Now, the Internet giant is accusing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration of rigging the bidding system in favor of its rival in Redmond, Wash."
This has apparently given Microsoft, the dominant productivity and collaboration software maker, the inside track for the deal, which covers e-mail for 200,000 state employees.
Make no mistake. This is the kind of contract that could entrench Google on the cloud computing map, where companies are vying to host applications and data for consumers, businesses and municipalities alike.
Google just launched its Google Apps for Government solution, which was awarded FISMA certification by the General Service Administration.
Thanks to that FISMA security protocol credit, I'd argue the company has the inside track to replacing IBM Lotus Notes when that contract expires later this year.
The LA Times noted Google asked that 142 of the state's contract requirements be changed or removed because the requirements listed functions that Google's Gmail application doesn't do.
State officials rejected 115 of Google's 142 change requests, citing concerns about the security of Google's cloud technology for storing sensitive tax, law enforcement and financial data, among other issues.
I asked Matt Glotzbach, product management director for Google Apps, today what the situation is.
Without getting into too many specifics, Glotzbach said Google submitted a number of requests to amend California's stated request for proposal, to be "less single vendor-centric and more open to competitive bids."
"We didn't feel the RFP gave ourselves or frankly any other vendor the opportunity to compete for the business," he added, without naming Microsoft. "The form of the requirements and that phrasing of the requirements and the specificity of the requirements really point to a pre-existing solution from a single vendor on the market."
Sounds to me like the the IT folks in California listed Microsoft Outlook e-mail and Exchange server functionality in their RFP.
Sounds to me like the state isn't comfortable with the cloud. And if the state isn't comfortable with the cloud, it's not going to be comfortable with Google.
Update: A Google spokesman just told me California is indeed comfortable with the cloud. It called for one on-premise bid and one for the cloud. But it sounds like the skew is to on-premise, and Microsoft in particular.
Update II (8/15): I also just heard from a reader "both options in the bid were for cloud solutions; one a dedicated cloud for state government and the other a multi-tenant government cloud - there was no on premise element of the bid. Also, this was more than a bid for just email, it included presence and messaging (e.g., VOIP and IM), collaboration tools, archiving and e-Discovery."
To my mind, that means Microsoft BPOS is the solution Cali is interested in and this would be a big loss for Google Apps.
For its part, California officials denied Google's allegations of bias and were disappointed the company never submitted a bid.
What do you think? Is Gmail insufficient and is Google's argument sour grapes? Or does the company have a point?