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12/15/2009
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Microsoft Taps Into Open Government Market

The software vendor is using Sharepoint, Bing, SQL, Azure, and other tools to seize a chunk of the open government market.

With the open government movement in full swing and the Obama administration's Open Government Directive finally in federal agency hands, vendors such as Microsoft are looking to offer up their help.

Earlier this year, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon began offering to host public data on their cloud services, and the competition will likely only heat up. Microsoft has touted the fact that SharePoint is the front-end platform for stimulus-tracking Website Recovery.gov, and clearly has a few other ideas up its sleeves.

For example, Microsoft recently worked with NASA to develop a Website called Be A Martian, part of which could be developed into a crowdsourced discussion platform like Google Moderator, Microsoft federal CTO Susie Adams said in an interview. This feature, which Microsoft and NASA call Town Hall, would allow users to ask questions, vote on them, read responses, earn a reputation, and sort questions by category and statistics like number of votes. The White House earlier this year used Google Moderator to crowdsource questions for a Presidential press conference.

Another Microsoft effort that could be helpful for open government projects is an effort codenamed Dallas. Through Dallas, Microsoft helps customers store strategic data sets on Microsoft's SQL Azure cloud database platform and then "curates" that data by adding an open API to allow developer access and a front-end search feature to query relational data.

Last month, in a video demonstration at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference, federal CIO Vivek Kundra showed off a mocked-up iPhone application that used Department of Labor data hosted by Dallas which enabled teachers to look for job opportunities.

"The thing we can help most with quickly now is helping people take data sets and quickly put them out there," Adams said. "Another one of the challenges agencies have is where do I actually put this and what kind of interface do I put on top of it. We can do that for them." Eventually, Adams said, Dallas could include integration with Bing or with enterprise search features from Microsoft's FAST acquisition.

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