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Google wins ruling to block Interior Department from using Microsoft e-mail system

Google had alleged that the department had illegally skewed the contracting process to seek only Microsoft e-mail solutions. Federal Judge Susan Braden agreed and ordered the department to redo its criteria.

January 06, 2011|By Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from San Francisco — Google Inc. won a key courtroom victory that temporarily halts a U.S. Interior Department effort to use rival Microsoft Corp.'s Internet-based e-mail system for its 88,000 employees.

Judge Susan Braden of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington issued a preliminary injunction supporting Google's claim that the department had violated federal rules covering competition in contracting services.

She sent the case back to the department to redo the criteria for its $59-million contract.

Google and Microsoft have been competing aggressively in the last year or so for federal, state and local government business in the so-called cloud computing arena for e-mail and other software services.

Microsoft has long dominated the government market for e-mail, but with software programs installed on huge government servers. Cloud computing frees up those servers by keeping the programs on the servers of Microsoft, Google or other providers.

In its lawsuit filed in October, Google alleged that the Interior Department had illegally skewed the contracting process to seek only Microsoft e-mail solutions. Braden agreed and issued the injunction, which was disclosed late Tuesday.

In issuing the order, she found that Google would probably prevail on the merits and would be faced with "competitive harm" were she not to order a halt to the process. She also wrote that the injunction served the public interest.

But she did not find any basis to support Google's allegations of bad faith. She also did not find any improper conduct by Microsoft.

The Interior Department could appeal Braden's decision or modify the bidding process. A spokeswoman for the department declined to comment.

A Google spokesman said the company was pleased with the decision.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

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