Google Loses 13K LAPD Seats in Google Apps Deal

Google lost 13,000 Los Angeles Police Department Google Apps seats as part of its deal with the city. Microsoft was surprisingly quiet about the blow to its cloud computing rival.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Police Department reneged on its agreement to replace its email and collaboration software with Google Apps, effectively removing 13,000 out of 30,000 seats Google had hoped to serve as part of its municipal government contract with Los Angeles.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and systems integrator CSC inked the deal with L.A. in August 2009. One month later, the LAPD requested additional security requirements. The matter came to light in October this year when L.A. revealed that Google and CSC have not been able to satisfy security requirements for the LAPD regarding criminal justice information.

Specifically, the concern is that criminal justice information contained in email must be protected in a way currently only possible with on-premises email systems, such as Novell GroupWise and Microsoft Exchange.

The LAPD is sticking with its long-standing GroupWise implementation, and Google has agreed to pay $350,000 a year for the department to remain on GroupWise as a sign of good faith. The city's other 17,000 employees in 36 departments are using Gmail.

Google spent a lot of money and engineering resources-it wouldn't say exactly how much-to meet the government's demands. In the end, it didn't work out. Google sounded regretful about the business decision before turning optimistic in an email to eWEEK:

""We're disappointed that the city introduced requirements for the LAPD after the contract was signed that are, in its own words, 'currently incompatible with cloud computing.' We realize this means the LAPD will not be joining the 17,000 other City employees successfully using Google Apps. Even so, Los Angeles taxpayers have already saved more than two million dollars and the City expects to save millions more in the years ahead.""

Google's setback would naturally lend itself as a tempting target for Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), which pits its own Office 365 suite versus Google Apps and wastes few opportunities to denigrate its rival's software availability, practices and business model.

However, a Microsoft spokesperson simply told eWEEK via email:

""Our approach to productivity is guided by the desire to work where and how our customers do-in the cloud, on premises or some combination of the two. We have made deep investments in security, privacy, and compliance. These investments have enabled more people and businesses around the world to use our productivity tools with confidence." "

Why did Microsoft take the high road instead of pot shots at its cloud collaboration rival? Only Microsoft's Office 365 marketing team can say for sure.

One reason could be that Microsoft knows and understands the intricacies and complexities that go along with landing, securing and fulfilling government technology contracts.

Earlier this year, Google withdrew its lawsuit versus the Department of Interior after the government agency decided to forgo procuring a competing email and collaboration system from Microsoft without looking at other vendors.

The DOI in 2009 selected Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS)-Federal software suite, agreeing to pay the software giant $59.3 million for its 88,000 employees to use the Web services over five years.

Google sued the DOI last October in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, claiming the government agency selected Microsoft without pursuing alternatives such as Google Apps.

In any case, Google's failure to secure the LAPD's confidence should be seen more as a political power struggle between the police department's IT manager and the city's IT department than a demonization of Google Apps, which the General Services Administration and other government municipalities support.

All's fair in love and war in the cloud. Google and Microsoft's cloud collaboration battle remains alive and well heading into 2012.