Google: Bidding process for California's e-mail contract was designed for Microsoft win

Google: Bidding process for California's e-mail contract was designed for Microsoft win

Summary: Google says the language in a bidding process for the State of California's e-mail contract was written to favor Microsoft's products.

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Ask any company that does business with any government agency - whether federal, state or local - and you'll surely hear stories about moments of frustration where company execs have wanted to just want to bang their head against a brick wall. When you work with government, frustration sort of just comes with the territory.

Google is getting some hard-knock schooling in government process as the company cries foul over a bidding process to host the e-mail infrastructure for the State of California. A Los Angeles Times report today explains why the state, as part of its effort to revamp its e-mail system, will be choosing a Microsoft offering instead of Google or other providers: three vendors who offer Microsoft services were the only ones to bid.

Google, which says it could have saved the state about $16 million more than the Microsoft offering, says it could not submit a formal bid because the requirements listed in the state's request for bids were written with language that was vendor-specific to what Microsoft offers, an allegation that state officials strongly deny.

Google submitted a 142-point list of requirements in the state's Invitation for Bid (IFB) document that Google felt were in need of revision so that it could put forth a truly competitive bid - but the state rejected more than 80 percent of the recommendations.

In a letter to state officials, Google Enterprise President David Girourard said:

...the general language of the IFB reflects an intimate knowledge and preference for Microsoft products and functionality and therefore raises an organizational conflict of interest.  Google raised the concern regarding the organizational conflict of interest with the State of California CIO’s office and was advised to follow the process and respond to the “spirit” of the IFB.  Google has done so, as requested, but the process is structured in a way that is unduly restrictive because the timeline is both unnecessarily short and the IFB language is overly restrictive and slanted...

Google has participated in the IFB process, as requested, and in a consistent fashion the State has failed to respond to the concerns raised.  The nature of the IFB itself is strictly written that bidders can comply with the IFB in its entirety or they will be deemed non-responsive. Therefore, the IFB is too narrow to interpret its “spirit” and to allow Google to provide a timely response request to the IFB.

For example, the state requires that "(T)he service providers native desktop client should include the ability to sort messages in the mailbox. (e.g., by recipient, date, subject and category)," according to documents. But that becomes problematic for Google because the company does not use a "native desktop client" but rather utilizes the Web browser for its user interface. More importantly, the company does not use the "sort" feature in mailbox but rather offers a search capability that it considers to be superior to sorting. In a document requesting a re-wording of the requirement, Google offered the state the following explanation and suggestion:

Sorting is a relatively limited method by which users are able to find information. The state should consider and weigh equally or greater more effective means of locating information such as the ability to search. The ability to sort tends to be more effective when users are in an exploratory mode, e.g. they don't know what they're looking for. In the context of email, however, users typically know what they're looking for. Search capability, on the other hand, is more effective at locating known information. Additionally, search has the added benefit of allowing users to narrow queries to pinpoint subsets of information. Email users are influenced by internet search engines such as Bing, Google and Yahoo and tend to prefer this method of find-ability due to its efficacy, pervasiveness and simplicity.

The state's short answer was "No change" but also added: "The sort requirement is separate from the search capability... Sorting AND Searching capabilities are desirable requirements." Translation: Search is great, so if you want to give us that, too, then that's even better. But sorting will be required.

In the end, Google did not submit a final bid because it felt that it could not win in a contest where the state was crafting its requirements to fit what Microsoft would offer - and without a final bid from Google, the state has nothing to approve or reject. In an interview, Bill Maile, director of communications for the Office of the State Chief Information Officer, said:

We believe (Google) would have offered a competitive solution. It's a great California company and we wish they would have been a bidder. We went to great lengths to ensure we had as many bidders as possible.

Why would Google want to submit a bid for something that it knows it will lose - especially given the competitiveness between Google and Microsoft? That would give Microsoft the ability to publicly announce a major win over Google's services and suggest that it offers what customers want.

None of this suggests that Microsoft is ill-equipped to handle the state's e-mail infrastructure or that Google's is somehow better. It also shouldn't suggest that the state isn't seeing cost savings with a Microsoft offering. Maybe Microsoft does have the better offering to meet the state's needs. But without bids that allow the state to consider alternatives to Microsoft, there's no way of knowing whether the state could have saved even more money or energy.

In that sense, Google should have submitted a final bid for consideration. After all, if Google truly wanted to challenge the state's decision to go Microsoft - potentially even in court - it would have needed to have its bid rejected. Such a move, however, would have allowed the state to show that it conducted an open, competitive process.

In some ways, Google should be thankful that it was never in the running for a contract from the State of California, one of the largest but also one of the most financially and legislatively inefficient and troubled states in the union. Today, for example, marks the 44th day of a budget stalemate - and that's not even the worst in state history.

Even if Google had bid on and won the state's contract, it probably would have been handed an IOU at some point.

Related coverage:

L.A. votes to "Go Google"; pressure shifts to Google and the cloud

Google, Los Angeles hit speed bumps on move to cloud

Topics: Browser, Collaboration, Google, Microsoft

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44 comments
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  • RE: Google: Bidding process for California's e-mail contract was designed for Microsoft win

    The state is correct that sort and search are separate and used differently by users. Google needs to add sort and it needs to let users turn off threading.
    txscott
    • Google: "Customers too dumb to realize we are God."

      "How dare they turn down our kindly service?"
      LBiege
    • re: Sort

      @shollomon

      Odd. I always thought sort was a basic function, though I see my Yahoo mail also can only be sorted by date.

      I'm sure that's just one minor issue out of the whole list, but seriously Google (and Yahoo) need to add a simple sort function.
      Badgered
    • sort by size

      @shollomon

      the specific sort i have wanted from google/gmail is by size. i've run out of space, i'd like to delete the emails with the largest attachments, but have no good way of finding them...
      erik.soderquist
  • RE: Google: Bidding process for California's e-mail contract was designed for Microsoft win

    Lol. So, they are crying that the requirements don't match their solution? Either meet the requirements (or) shut-up. If they really need to grab the contract, their software should be customizable + additional features as needed, to meet the requirements of every organization. How can they expect everybody to agree to their limited set of functionality.
    5ri
    • Having been involved in a number of these

      If you're able to get in early an influence the tender the job is yours. It surprisingly easy to influence these documents ad your technical input is typically far greater than the party preparing the tender <ocument. <br><br>MS won, but perhaps not the citizens of California. Anyways what a couple of million more onto that's state's never to b repaid debt anyway;-)
      Richard Flude
  • Shame on the government ...

    ... for not bending its requirements to fit Google! If I want to bid on a government contract, shouldn't the government alter its requirements to fit what I can provide? Maybe the next time Google hires someone, it should alter its requirements to fit the qualifications of its candidates. "Well Mr. Brown, we originally required candidates for this position, have PhDs. But since you only have a GED, I think it is only right that we scale back our requirements, so that you have a chance of obtaining the job."

    Yes Google. The world really does revolve around you.
    P. Douglas
  • RE: Google: Bidding process for California's e-mail contract was designed for Microsoft win

    screw web based clients. i have msn and hotmail accounts. msn is forwarded to hotmail, hotmail is popped from my mail server and it all ends up in my desktop client. a web based client will never be used by me.
    g_keramidas@...
    • Having MSN and Hotmail accounts

      ... is not something to brag about.
      wackoae
  • Stop pointing finger, Google.

    If you don't meet the criterion, it's your fault.
    illegaloperation
  • It appears Google is learning that they now have to earn

    their way into a business. They remind me quite a bit of the Ferengi.

    :|
    Tim Cook
    • RE: Google: Bidding process for California's e-mail contract was designed for Microsoft win

      @Mister Spock Nah Microsoft closer to the Ferengi than Google.
      Knowles2
  • Same progressive march

    [i]In some ways, Google should be thankful that it was never in the running for a contract from the State of California, one of the largest but also one of the most financially and legislatively inefficient and troubled states in the union. [/i]

    Ha! Don't kid yourself. The brass ring brats at Google march mindlessly to the same One World Pied Piper.

    California is home to the most DERELICT and UNPRODUCTIVE government and liberal bureaucracy known to man, one dominated by socialists and democratic collectivists who enjoy calling themselves "progressives," all of whom are bent on redistributing wealth at all costs, promoting socialism?s tentacles of mediocrity, and perpetuating government entitlement programs to ensure but more generational welfare junkies.

    Now mind you they're also willing to push ?fair? trade -- just as long as it helps promote the inexorable march toward One World Government! Globalized corporations, where the home country has little to no say, remains preferable to traditional, domestic based, laissez-faire style free enterprise. It hardly matters if these same multinational corporations have become patsies to the international banking houses and the Federal Reserve Bank.

    The state has also morphed into a refuge filled to the brim with red journalists, former Ivy League academia, and bleeding heart philanthropists. Marxist educators continue to push the latest variant of "social democracy" to the young to insure there will be no shortage of left wing robotic thinking in future generations. We're also home to a morally bankrupt "entertainment" cartel which controls both Hollywood and the national media outlets.

    All this backed by taxation(s) of every sordid stripe, which helps fund the unrelenting, federally sanctioned alien invasion from the south! It's comforting to know that Cali marches in almost perfect lockstep with the feds, the same bureaucracy who cater and bootlick to those darling Zionist string pullers at every turn. This includes constructing massive, state of the art fence breastworks for our pals in Israel while ours remain undermanned and porous!

    Is it any wonder this huge state economy, once one of the greatest economies in the world, continues to decline into a "progressive" abyss, only matched by its East Coast counterpart - the wonderful nanny-state of Massachusetts - as the most liberal and "tolerant" crib in the union. Even the golden state's "Republican" Governor [Schwarzenegger] is a liberal at the core -- not that Republican "neocon" imposters offer anything better!
    klumper
    • RE: Google: Bidding process for California's e-mail contract was designed for Microsoft win

      @klumper Feel better now? Geez....
      MikeR666
    • Feel good BS won't help

      If these issues were strictly cyclical, you could say such rants are overkill. But these deficiencies are becoming systemic and increasingly widespread at this point. Americans should be ticked off, as opposed to numbed to indifference, as they're being taken from all sides of the spectrum. The powers-that-be have transformed this nation into the world's biggest hooker, for no other reason than to profit by it in the short term.

      It's our descendents who are going to pay for all this mindless largesse if we don't demand stricter and nonpartisan accountability, as well as a fundamental reassessment of our national priorities. Above all, this nation needs to get the Federal octopus - and its countless proxies - off its back.

      Look up the rise and fall of the Roman Empire for an eerie and fitting analogy. As for California specifically, of which I'm a resident, the "golden state" provides a shining example, like few others could, of what government ought NOT to be, but has become due to excessive tolerance and outright incompetence. The saddest part is, where this state goes, others tend to follow.
      klumper
    • RE: Google: Bidding process for California's e-mail contract was designed for Microsoft win

      @klumper

      What a bunch of BS. California's current deficit is no worse, per capita than many other states run by "conservatives" (see Texas, Arizona, Nevada), so your "it's the liberals fault" theory doesn't hold water.

      As for their economy, despite what you'd like to belief it's still one of the biggest in the world and it will continue to be.

      As for taxation, California's overall tax burden is middle of the road compared to other states.
      toadlife
    • Whoa!

      @klumper
      I think perhaps you confused your browser tabs when you replied- this is ZDNET, not FOX news.
      dfolk2
      • BS progression

        @toadlife

        Something tells me you don't live in California. Because if you did, and regardless of liberal or conservative spots, it would be hard to imagine anyone being defensive (proud?) of what goes on with chronic regularity at the Sacramento nutfarm. Are you so easily hoodwinked as to feel the need to defend such pigheaded, "golden" charades as only our legislative socialist assembly can deliver it?

        @dfolk2

        If you happened to have read more of what I've posted in the past, you'd know I don't tune in to Fox News. Nor am I a proponent of the "neocon" imposters who have usurped the Republican party. No more than I am of the socialist "progressives" who have done the same to the Democratic party. [Please now, don't trouble yourself and point in like fashion to the proggie crew over at MSNBC "news" for the other side of that 2-cent penny]
        klumper
    • RE: Google: Bidding process for California's e-mail contract was designed for Microsoft win

      @klumper <br><br>I hear you - slavery and white supremacy need to be brought back, Hitler was right (gotta protect you from the Zionists) and pandering to the world by providing entertainment is just wrong.<br><br>I blame it on the poor getting uppity.<br><br>Only in America...
      tonymcs@...
      • Only in America is right

        Yours c/o Oz reply is below, if you care to dance. Only put down your Foster's first, it appears you've had a few too many.
        klumper