Google sees itself as a disruptive force, first in reorganizing the world's information and second at delivering email and other services from the cloud. Its pride as a disrupter is getting in the way of convincing state and federal governments to accept its cloud services.
Previously, Google complained to the press that it had been cut out of the three-year, $50 million state of California contract to reorganize its email systems. Now it’s suing the federal government over email requirements that it says favor Microsoft and rule out Gmail.
I can sympathize with the difficulty of dislodging Microsoft from offices and agencies where it is an entrenched monopoly. The cloud should be an opportunity to disrupt that stranglehold, and Google, as a supplier of cloud services, should be a contender.
It’s not working out that way, and Google itself is partly to blame.
I am a believer that applications will come from the cloud to the enterprise and will be the better for it. But Google Apps leave me hoping that there will be choices in addition to Google’s. Google’s Gmail is more reliable than the shape-shifting documents I sometimes find myself dealing with in Google Docs, but even if Google Apps were completely reliable, it was never clear to me that Google understood how to approach mainstream enterprises to make the sale.
The issue wasn't just the technology. Rather, it was more about whether Google had the capacity to understand enterprise needs for data privacy and security. It would need to exhibit an extraordinary sensitivity to those concerns in order to ensure a smooth integration with existing applications. To me, Google's newfound disputatiousness is a sign that it doesn't have what it takes to deliver the first wave of enterprise applications and application services, outside of search. Yes, after a sputtering start, the transition to Google Apps is proceeding in Los Angeles. LA needs to cut IT expenses; the city’s CIO, Randi Levin, is a champion of the transition. The combination should have guaranteed an early success. Instead, it’s proved a bumpy transition.