Microsoft vs. Google: An e-mail showdown at L.A. City Hall

Microsoft vs. Google: An e-mail showdown at L.A. City Hall

Summary: The city of Los Angeles has a decision to make. You see, the city's old school e-mail system is pretty outdated and in need of a major overhaul.


The city of Los Angeles has a decision to make. You see, the city's old school e-mail system is pretty outdated and in need of a major overhaul. But like most other municipal governments, the budget for new tech systems is pretty tight these days. And so, city officials have been weighing the option of jumping on board with a cloud offering.

It's a contract worth $7.25 million, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. But, in the long-run, it's worth so much more than that. Los Angeles is the second largest city in the U.S. and scoring a contract to overhaul and modernize the e-mail system could be a major score for either company.

For Microsoft, a win shows that Outlook and Exchange are still big players and worthy of an investment by one of the largest enterprise customers in the nation. (The city currently uses neither Microsoft nor Google for e-mail services.) For Google, it would be a major score for the cloud and could serve as a springboard to prove to other cities around the globe that Google's e-mail cloud is, in fact, ready for prime time. Talking about Google, Los Angeles city councilman Bernard C. Parks tells the Times:

It would be a flagship contract that they can market to the rest of the country. When you buy it and they put on their masthead that you're one of their customers, you find a trail of cities that say 'I'll follow suit.'

The contract is reportedly such a big deal that members of the council have been told that both Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Google CEO Eric Schmidt would be happy to come down to L.A. and visit with council members about their decisions.

The city seems to be leaning toward a Google offering but lobbyists have landed on the doors of City Hall to express concerns about security, confidential information and reliability, all important issues that have prompted city officials to (wisely) ask more questions.

Microsoft, of course, is pointing to recent Gmail outages as reasons to think twice about the cloud. Google, by contrast, is touting not only its presence in other large companies and municipalities but also the cost savings that come with taking the cloud route. And it also pointed to the government cloud it's working on, as part of a federal technology initiative announced earlier this month.

The Times reports that the Google offering has cleared one council committee but needs the OK from a second one before going to a vote by the full City Council. No date for that vote has been set.

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Google

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  • Contract worth $7.25 million? Google will probably do it for free, or

    as a minimum at a greatly reduced price. Cities
    like Los Angeles should take advantage of the
    competitive situation to drive the cost of email
    for the city to near zero.

    Remember, with Google, they also get GoogleApps.
    One huge plus.
    • And Google gets all of LA's confidential information...

      ...unless you really believe that they don't datamine like crazy...and use it for their own purposes.

      Confused by religion
      • Technically

        any e-mail received or sent by any city employee would fall under Open Records. So that part is a wash. Personally I'd go with a company you can actually get support from. Who do you call when you're having problems with GMail?
        • Google provides very good support for paying users of gmail, and, LA will

          certainly demand 24x7 support as part of the

          Also, even if city email fell Open Records law,
          Google will not be the ones making it public, LA
          would be responsible for that.
          • Cats Sleeping With Dogs, Tornadoes on the 405

            Plus, it takes two to email. Thus gmail will be holding my correspondence with city hall (yes, I'm an Angeleno) any way.

            As a taxpayer, I'm pleased that they are taking a look at alternatives. I'm sure that the winner will be the provider who promises the best value.
          • I agree on the open records

            but I was simply pointing out that information privacy shouldn't exactly be a top concern for the city. And I wasn't aware of the support option from Google, how good is the support? Just curious, I know the support MS provides and in 15 years I've yet to come across better. Both online and over the phone. If Google can match that then I'd be impressed.

            The article doesn't state, but are they evaluating on-premise Exchange servers vs Google or are they evaluating the MS Exchange Online offering. I have no doubt MS would match Google's price if it were Exchange Online. I hope they properly weigh features as well, Exchange + Outlook is substantially more powerful than Google's offering. And I do recommend many small businesses to Google when it fits their needs, so I'm completely biased here. (I do admit to some though, I like the MS Server offerings a lot.)
        • WRONG!!!!!

          Communications between city attorneys and their clients (as well as DAs and other attorneys on staff for the City) and other "privileged" e-mail conversations are not subject to that policy. Likewise, e-mail between patients and doctors is not subject to that policy either.

          And what do you do with your litigation holds? How easy or hard is it to gather all communications from the GMail servers to store on your own locked down protected private servers that are subject to court review?

          There are many areas in which Google does not meet the bar, so to speak. Even a hosted Exchange solution will have the same issues.

          Having one's own in-house mail server (and staff who are accountable to the City) makes sense for LA, since the L in LA stands for Litigation. Or is that Lawyers?
          Confused by religion
          • And, the local servers are still connected to the internet, and face the

            same problems as the Google servers. The big
            difference being that Google can afford a lot
            better security personnel and staff 24x7 365 days
            a year.

            But, YES, like you point out, Google MUST keep the
            email private, and let the city of LA decide what
            to divulge, and not all of it is public.
          • Great - now you insult the workers

            There is no better security personnel than those who are employed by the company whose security they are paid to protect. Can't say the same for Google staff who have no boss but Google and damned little accountability to paying customers.
            Confused by religion
      • No, Google can ONLY use it to put context sensitive advertisement, and ONLY

        if LA approves. LA will probably insist on no

        In any case, just like ANY other company that
        might bid, they would be sued into oblivion if
        they broke laws and illegally used any
        information in the emails.
        • Uh, what law are you citing?

          As far asd I know Google owns everything and its theirs to do with as they wish.
          • And, you do not know much. Google would be sued into oblivion if they

            illegally accessed personal information.
        • Uh, what law are you citing?

          As far as I know Google owns everything and its theirs to do with as they wish.
      • Well, you're certainly confused by something

        Life, perhaps?
      • You rather trust Microsoft with the information

      • Interestingly enough...

        ... my former employer once sent out an email forbidding us from using Hotmail for any business related email because of the clause in Passport that gave Microsoft rights not only to the email but ownership of the contents.
    • And MS would gladly match that

      and include Office Web Apps if that meant the difference between winning the contract and losing it. The city will win out on price either way, so it'll really get down to which service they like better.
      Michael Kelly
      • Yep, LA is in the drivers seat here. Hope that they put the squeeze on BOTH

        Google and MS to get the lowest price for the
        best technology.
      • What Microsoft would actually do...

        ... threaten the city with a machine-by-machine audit to look for warez and ...

        Mihi Nomen Est
    • Near Zero?

      They will probably do it for free? Why? That would get them in deep with the DOJ.

      Tell me, if the a competitor of the company you work for went aftr all your accounts, offering the same product for free, how long before your company would have them in court under "dumping" charges?

      There is only so much they can do, and most people are not large fans of Google Apps and their limitations.