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Google Loves L.A.; Microsoft Maybe Less So

Come on back, Randy Newman. Google is singing your tune this week. There's little doubt that the nerds from Northern California love the city to the south of them now that they've won a big contract to provide e-mail for the city of Los Angeles.

That's right. Sgt. Joe Friday will soon be filing his police reports via the cloud -- if, in fact, Google's cloud stuff actually works -- instead of using Outlook and Exchange.

Microsoft pushed hard to keep L.A. from going Google but, as we said last month, Redmond took the wrong tack. Microsoft (from what we've read, anyway) went old-school and bashed the cloud model itself. Whoever was involved for Microsoft on this deal pushed client server as a platform (we've surmised) rather than talking about why, perhaps, a mixture of Software plus Services or an on-premises installation with some sort of migration path to the cloud might make more sense than a pure cloud play. A not unreasonable concept, by the way.

Google went into L.A. during a recession talking about cloud computing to a strapped city in a broke state, touting the overall cheapness of outsourcing e-mail rather than managing it in-house. But whether the cloud model is really cheaper or more efficient long-term than an on-premises e-mail installation isn't the issue here.

The issue is that Microsoft sent a bunch of heavies into Southern California to try to sell "they way you've (or we've) always done it," and Google talked about the future, about a new and exciting computing model with promise and potential. Microsoft, from what we can tell, focused on tearing that model down -- even though Redmond wants and desperately needs to make progress in the cloud computing game itself. Talk about mixed messages.

We said last month that Microsoft was making a huge mistake with its Luddite approach, and sure enough (this never happens), we were right! Hey, there's a first time for everything. Seriously, though, if Microsoft is going to get caught up in trying to preserve its old business and computing models rather than being flexible enough to adapt to new ones, the company really is going to struggle in the years to come. But there's no reason why that should be the case. The cloud race is just starting, and Microsoft has the brains and resources to keep up with and probably beat just about anybody. It just has to want to win. Does it? Right now, we can't tell.

And Google has to live up to its promises, which is not necessarily going to be easy. Consider this not-insignificant paragraph from the L.A. Times story linked above:

"The contract was approved pending an amendment that would require Google to compensate the city in the event that the Google system was breached and city data exposed or stolen. No such clause existed in the contract."

Clearly, there's some caution -- maybe even skepticism -- in L.A. about this whole cloud thing. But there's also the belief that cloud computing will work better and be cheaper than keeping Microsoft's expensive and complicated software around city hall (or wherever the server room for the city of L.A. is). This will be a landmark implementation for Google and for cloud computing...one way or another.

What it won't be is a win for Microsoft, which, we believe, has come out of this whole scenario looking stodgy, antiquated and maybe a little mean. Microsoft might not love L.A. right now, but it's going to have to love cloud computing a little more than it did in its L.A. pitch if it wants to succeed in being a leading provider of cloud services. We can understand folks from L.A. not knowing much about clouds, but we really thought a company from Seattle would be more willing to work with them.

What's your take on Microsoft's cloud strategy and Google's victory in L.A.? Will it be a disaster for L.A. and Google or for Microsoft -- or both? Send your thoughts to lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on October 29, 2009 at 11:55 AM


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