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Google's filing  (Source: Scribd)
Refusal to consider competitors other than Microsoft partners violates the law, Google argues

Last time a software company this big went to war with the United States government, it was Microsoft Corporation on the receiving end of antitrust accusations.  This time around it is the U.S. government on the defense, as the world's largest internet firm, Google Inc. accuses the U.S. federal Department of the Interior of collusion with Microsoft to illegally hand it email contracts without reviewing competitors products, including Google.

Onix Networking Corp., an enterprise reseller of Gmail and Google's other internet software services is listed as a co-plaintiff in the suit.  Microsoft is not formally listed as a defendant.

The DOI last year went looking for a web-documents service.  However, it decided early along to only consider software offerings that were part of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, essentially excluding Google and other third parties.  Google called that decision "arbitrary and capricious".

It began by writing the DOI a complaint letter in the spring, in which it asserted:
We believe these Microsoft-based requirements would violate the Competition in Contracting Act because they bear no rational relationship to the DOI's needs, are not written to enhance competition or innovation, and unduly restrict competition.
Google claims the DOI representatives responded with "assurances to Google representatives that DOI would conduct a full and open competition for its messaging requirements."  But no such investigation appears to ever have occurred.

Some observers are surprised by Google's decision to pursue legal action against the U.S. government.  The internet company is thought to be among the highest profile highest antitrust targets in America's tech industry.  The suit strikes some observers as a surprising role reversal.

Google claims claims that its under antitrust suspicions are fallacious and insists that it's still a "small" company compared to other giants like Microsoft.

Microsoft has been feeling the heat from Google and other "free" or ad-driven software makers.  The company recently ran an aggressive campaign attacking Sun Microsystem's free Open Office 3 suite, which some are viewing as a competitor to Microsoft's lucrative Office suite.


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Hmmm....
By Enoch2001 on 11/2/2010 11:34:16 AM , Rating: 2
Makes one wonder... perhaps if Google wasn't "legally" funneling its money through tax loopholes to avoid paying a proper corporate tax, the Fed's might have considered them?

Just saying...




RE: Hmmm....
By MeesterNid on 11/2/10, Rating: -1
RE: Hmmm....
By Luticus on 11/2/2010 11:54:34 AM , Rating: 3
I thought the comment was funny as hell, i didn't realize it was meant to be taken that seriously :P

quote:
All that's being done here by Microsoft is making the government more entrenched in their technology stack

What exactly is being done by Microsoft now? did i miss something because the way the article reads to me is that the Government is the one being sued because THEY decided to only consider Microsoft. Microsoft isn't even named as a defendant in the case...

quote:
so that it would be next to impossible (and super expensive) to ever break out of it.
And what do you suggest as an alternative? Apple... they do the same thing. open office, Google docs and everyone else, I'm sure, has their own formats and things they use. Complete interoperability is near impossible between rival companies. I think you're just splitting hairs.


RE: Hmmm....
By MeesterNid on 11/2/2010 12:05:40 PM , Rating: 3
The feds made Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite be part of the requirement in the proposal which pretty much means they awarded Microsoft the contract from the beginning.

I suggest an implementation based on a standard. All the solution providers you listed still just implement existing standard protocols like SMTP, POP, IMAP, etc. So perhaps the proposal should be about a solution and functionality rather than a specific technology.


RE: Hmmm....
By Luticus on 11/2/2010 12:10:16 PM , Rating: 5
then what exactly does this line mean?:
quote:
so that it would be next to impossible (and super expensive) to ever break out of it.

MS supports and uses all of those standards you've listed. unless you're using exchange you're not doing anything proprietary. MS exchange is by far the best solution though. if google doesn't have a good competitor to exchange (and they don't that i'm aware of) then what's the problem?


RE: Hmmm....
By MeesterNid on 11/2/2010 12:22:05 PM , Rating: 1
Dude, which part of request requiring the use of Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite are you not understanding here? Is Microsoft not spelled correctly or is it a new standard with their name in it that may be I'm just not aware of!?

Google is calling BS on the government basically naming Microsoft as a vendor for this solution without any possibility for competition.

Sheesh!


RE: Hmmm....
By Luticus on 11/2/2010 12:43:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Google is calling BS on the government basically naming Microsoft as a vendor for this solution without any possibility for competition.
Yea, i get this... i read the article. So if all you're saying is this then what, if anything, is your point. I understand the government is probably in the wrong here (it's for the court to decide) but in your prior posts you made it sound like Microsoft had done something wrong and nowhere is it mentioned that they had. I guess i just don't understand what it is you're trying to accomplish with your posts.


RE: Hmmm....
By Fritzr on 11/3/2010 7:49:01 PM , Rating: 1
The government took the action. Microsoft would be the beneficiary due to the continued usage of proprietary standards. Some of those standards that would be adopted as part of the "Microsoft required" clause are not licensed for use by companies other than Microsoft.

The result of this vendor specific requirement is vendor lockin as the cost of porting to a different vendor is skyhigh when the cost of modifying procedures that require vendor specific features and proprietary "standards" is added to the cost of the contract.

So regardless of who requires Microsoft applications, Microsoft is the only vendor who can legally provide Microsoft applications without a Microsoft issued license. Result: Lockin of Microsoft for government applications that will interact using Microsoft proprietary "standards".

All Microsoft has to do is find the contract "acceptable" and they improve their locked in vendor status with the government :)


RE: Hmmm....
By tastyratz on 11/3/2010 8:49:01 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The DOI last year went looking for a web-documents service

Google doesn't need to have a competitor to exchange if you read the article. This is around a web document service, not a client based email provider - 2 very distinct things. If we are talking email (and we are not its overall document services) then that would level the playing field with exchange because of ms outlook web access as part of exchange (vs gmail etc.)

The DOI made up its mind beforehand and did not consider alternative solutions... but how is the government different from corporations? If MS entered an agreement with them then it would be antitrust, but they decided to choose ms even before going to bid.

Are we going to start suing ALL big business deciding to not window shop and picks a competitor to Google?


RE: Hmmm....
By Luticus on 11/3/2010 5:08:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Google doesn't need to have a competitor to exchange if you read the article. This is around a web document service, not a client based email provider - 2 very distinct things. If we are talking email (and we are not its overall document services) then that would level the playing field with exchange because of ms outlook web access as part of exchange (vs gmail etc.)

Agreed, exchange was only brought up as an example for my post. The prior poster stated that microsoft used proprietary software to rope companies into staying with them forever. I said that ms supports all protocols (pop, smtp, imap, etc.) unless you're talking about exchange.

quote:

The DOI made up its mind beforehand and did not consider alternative solutions... but how is the government different from corporations? If MS entered an agreement with them then it would be antitrust, but they decided to choose ms even before going to bid.

Also agreed, the government is probably in the wrong because they typically do things by contract and there are very specific rules and regulations in the contracting world.

quote:
Are we going to start suing ALL big business deciding to not window shop and picks a competitor to Google?
while i agree with your intended thought here, the government is not just any company and they are held to a different standard because they are playing with tax payer money (to include google's tax dollars)


RE: Hmmm....
By Fritzr on 11/3/2010 7:57:17 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft supports MOST of the open standards, not all. Their default document standards are NOT open standards. They did make an effort to have a "Standard" approved that would have covered most of their proprietary standards, but not even Microsoft could document the standard that Microsoft was submitting.

By forcing government agencies to use Microsoft products at every step, there is no need to use industry standard formats. The default Microsoft only document types work just fine with Microsoft products. That was probably a consideration in requiring Microsoft compatibility...no need to convert Microsoft standard format docs to industry standard format docs.


RE: Hmmm....
By bug77 on 11/2/2010 1:08:29 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Complete interoperability is near impossible between rival companies.


That's why OpenOffice went ahead and developed a standard for document format: so that anyone may read and write them.
Interoperability is not impossible, it's just that it's not in a company's best interest to offer the customer the option to switch, that's all.


RE: Hmmm....
By Luticus on 11/2/2010 2:09:27 PM , Rating: 2
you are correct in this. interoperability is not impossible, just near impossible. when one company finds a better way of doing things they tend to patent that so that other companies can't use it. thus putting up a huge road block to interoperability. This is one great thing about open source and the gpl, it tends to ensure technology is available to all as long as they don't use it for profit. open source also puts up road blocks though because then people who actually want to make money on their work tend to steer clear of it. So all these great and talented devs go to places like Microsoft and Apple where they make tons of money but their code becomes proprietary. Catch-22s are fun!


RE: Hmmm....
By bug77 on 11/2/2010 4:21:23 PM , Rating: 3
Still, you open-source basic stuff and keep more intricate code proprietary. The possibility to get the best of both worlds is right there, but who will pursue it when there's so much money to be made from patenting the dumbest idea and vendor lock-in?

I mean, go tell a kid that there's a way all kinds of computers can talk to each other, talk to phones and home cinema systems, but there's no way you can edit a document without MS Office. The kid will laugh in your face, that's how crazy the situation really is.


RE: Hmmm....
By sviola on 11/3/2010 10:56:10 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
That's why OpenOffice went ahead and developed a standard for document format: so that anyone may read and write them.


But then, OpenOffice does not open all ODF files correctly...Btw, MS Office does support ODF files better than OO.o and OOXML (MS Office standard document) is an open standard as well.


RE: Hmmm....
By Enoch2001 on 11/5/2010 1:23:06 AM , Rating: 2
Read: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-21/google-2-...

No conspiracy theory; fact. By the way - Google was founded using partial public funds. Ironic that it avoids paying a regular corporate tax by doing what it's doing.


RE: Hmmm....
By tmouse on 11/2/2010 11:54:16 AM , Rating: 2
Does Google have a stand alone mail product that is not handled by their servers? I doubt the government would want information from its email to be harvested by Google, that could be a MAJOR disadvantage for any other software company that Google would want to compete against.


RE: Hmmm....
By MeesterNid on 11/2/2010 12:10:17 PM , Rating: 2
So the government should be creating requests for bids based on what they think a company has available out there or what that vendor can provide without giving the vendor a chance to give them a proposal?

That sounds reasonable!


RE: Hmmm....
By mcnabney on 11/2/2010 12:31:00 PM , Rating: 3
That is exactly what the government is supposed to do when issuing contracts.

Draw-up the exact requirements for the product or project and allow a bidding process to award the firm that can deliver the needed services for the lowest price.

This is no different than if a government agency sought a wireless service provider, but one of the requirements was that the vendor had to provide Verizon service. I am 100% certain that Verizon's bid for the contract wouldn't be very low.


RE: Hmmm....
By foolsgambit11 on 11/2/2010 8:53:24 PM , Rating: 2
I absolutely agree. But in this case, Google is essentially arguing that the government wasn't requesting a specific product, but was requesting a specific brand of product. Like if the government put out a request, not just for a distributer of bottled water, but for a distributer of Dasani bottled water, without justifying why the government needed to be provided Dasani instead of Aquafina or Crystal Geyser or plain Brand X.

Google thinks the contract should only have demanded that the contractor provide e-mail and web document services that could interface effectively with existing (Microsoft) products used by the DOI, rather than demanding that the web document and e-mail services themselves be run on a MS platform. Whether or not Google (or another company providing licensed Google-based solutions) could meet that requirement in a cost-effective manner would then be covered in the evaluation of the tendered bids. To me, that sounds like a more equitable bidding process than the one structured by the DOI.


RE: Hmmm....
By The Raven on 11/3/2010 1:23:30 PM , Rating: 2
I think the problem is that the service/products that they are using from MS are set up in a proprietary manner. In your example (and tying it in with the previous guy) you are saying that they need to go with Verizon brand based on their currrent situation. But the fact that the gov't is in such a situation is what makes it unfair. If they went with Google products, they wouldn't have to use ALL Google products like they are doing with MS. They could use some Google, some Oracle, and even some plain old FOSS. But what the DOI is saying now is that they HAVE to get the Verizon/Dasani product and that (from what I understand) is what Google has a problem with.


RE: Hmmm....
By ebakke on 11/2/2010 12:28:54 PM , Rating: 1
http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/government/inde...

I could see the DoD caring about who's hosting their data, but the DoI?


RE: Hmmm....
By tmouse on 11/3/2010 7:46:47 AM , Rating: 2
It's not about security breaches, it's more about if Google get in roads with their hosted service (which is the only market they are interested in) they will have inside information about potential software interests long before anyone else. They search and index all of their e-mail for marketing purposes. It's pretty scary how you start to get targeted ads for things you only talked about with people in e-mail when you’re on their services. That’s how they make their money on these types of accounts since there is no advertising on the web portals.


RE: Hmmm....
By The Raven on 11/2/2010 5:46:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The DOI last year went looking for a web-documents service. However, it decided early along to only consider software offerings that were part of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, essentially excluding Google and other third parties.

Its apple to apples bro. MS would be hosting their docs too.


RE: Hmmm....
By tmouse on 11/3/2010 7:53:14 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry bro that’s not true, we are not talking hotmail here. MS wants to go to cloud computing to harvest information on users of their products like Google does (as wells as control their software ) But that’s not what this ROI was about. I just do not see Google having a real horse in this race, now Oracle I could see.


RE: Hmmm....
By The Raven on 11/3/2010 12:50:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Does Google have a stand alone mail product that is not handled by their servers?

That is what you said, and that is what I was responding to.
And for your information, we are not talking Gmail either. I wasn't talking about Hotmail. I'm saying that it is apples to apples because both Google and MS have services where the mail, docs, etc. are hosted on their servers and not the customers' own servers.

Furthermore, did you not read my quote from the article...
quote:
The DOI last year went looking for a web -documents service.

That means the service provider is hosting their documents. That is what they are looking for.

Maybe I'm not understanding what you mean by, "stand alone mail product that is not handled by their servers". Can you clarify? What web-documents service is there that MS has where the docs are not stored in MS's cloud?


RE: Hmmm....
By zozzlhandler on 11/2/2010 9:16:11 PM , Rating: 1
Gmail can be run on corporate (or Government) servers. Only the free public version runs on Google servers.


RE: Hmmm....
By tmouse on 11/3/2010 7:39:38 AM , Rating: 2
I don't believe so, I know of a dozen sizable corporations and at least a dozen major universities that use Google corporate e-mail and not one of them hosts the service. That’s the selling point they offer potentially better up time, far better redundancy and greater storage capacity than self hosting. In every case there have been some very strange problems in the switchover and no real control of spam-lite from Google’s partners.


RE: Hmmm....
By rika13 on 11/2/2010 1:53:14 PM , Rating: 2
loopholes arent "holes" that are accidental, they are there to promote specific interests, like research, alternative fuel use, charity, etc., they are legal and RECOMMENDED by the IRS


RE: Hmmm....
By The Raven on 11/2/2010 5:38:49 PM , Rating: 2
I think you are getting loopholes and subsidies confused.

Definition from West's Law:
quote:
An omission or ambiguity in a legal document that allows the intent of the document to be evaded .


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