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Google, Microsoft in '2-horse race' for Government cloud contracts

Kenneth Corbin | Sept. 5, 2013
As tech behemoths Google and Microsoft try to win over public-sector CIOs with their cloud-based productivity suites, government agencies eye cost savings and an increase in productivity and collaboration.

Most federal CIOs polled in TechAmerica's survey said that those systems in their agencies are frozen in place due to the cost and complexity of shifting them to the cloud, not to mention the security concerns that continue to slow the cloud-computing transition across the public sector.

Google Apps for Government vs. Microsoft Office 365
In the office app space, though others are in the mix, the two vendors vying for the large majority of the government contracts are Google, with its Apps for Government suite, and Microsoft, which has been winning over converts from its venerable Office product to the cloud-based Office 365.

"It's a two-horse race right now," says Gartner analyst Tom Austin.

Microsoft and Google are cagey about the extent of their government businesses, declining to disclose revenue figures or a precise count of how many customers each has signed up. But both can boast of impressive wins.

At the federal level, Google counts the General Services Administration and the National Archives as customers, among others. Microsoft has rolled out Office 365 to workers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with numerous state and local entities.

In March, when Microsoft announced the addition of eight new public-sector cloud customers, the company boasted, "More than 1 million U.S. government workers are moving to Office 365 for their day-to-day productivity needs across a variety of federal, state and local organizations."

Google is less specific, saying only that agencies in 44 states and the District of Columbia use the company's Apps product. Executives with both companies interviewed for this story would not elaborate on the number of government customers they have signed up for their cloud suites.

Gartner's Austin estimates that Microsoft wins roughly two out of three government contracts for cloud-based productivity tools, with Google taking the remaining third, with a little room at the margins for other vendors trying to compete in the space.

Government Agencies Move to the Cloud a Matter of When
To be sure, the reasons that government agencies are moving to the cloud are varied, but the shift is underway and the momentum points in one direction.

"The conversations are not about if they're going to go to the cloud, but when," says Curt Kolcun, vice president of Microsoft's U.S. Public Sector division. "We've broadly gotten beyond that."

"I think we've reached the tipping point. Government has recognized that the cloud is a better way of doing business," says David Mihalchik, head of Google Apps for Government. "There are so many more government agencies that are looking to adopt more powerful technology at a lower cost."


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