Policy

Google and Microsoft are at it again, now over government software

The on-again, off-again battle between the two companies flared up again when Google commissioned a study on how much the U.S. government relies on Microsoft software.

Pair of boxing gloves

Google and Microsoft are in a long-running feud that has once again flared up in recent months.

Photo: Jens Tandler/EyeEm/Getty Images

According to a new report commissioned by Google, Microsoft has an overwhelming "share in the U.S. government office productivity software market," potentially leading to security risks for local, state and federal governments.

The five-page document, released Tuesday by a trade group that counts Google as a member, represents the latest escalation between the two companies in a long-running feud that has once again flared up in recent months.

The report found what its authors call a "monoculture," alleging that Microsoft controls about 85% of the market of tools for communicating and collaborating, with Google as the next most popular vendor. The study ascribes Microsoft's position to governments' preference for sticking with vendors they already use, rather than trying potentially better options.

The Google-commissioned report also claims that governments' emphasis on ease "creates potential concentration risk and security vulnerabilities."

Microsoft's position "creates a bullseye on the government for bad actors, thereby putting the government at a greater risk for a national security incident," said Matthew Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, the trade group that released the findings and joined in commissioning them.

CCIA is one of Microsoft's oldest antagonists. It was deeply critical of the 2001 antitrust settlement between the U.S. and Microsoft, and filed a complaint to the European Commission about Windows XP. In 2004, the group's then-president reportedly personally received nearly $10 million from an agreement between the company and the association to pull back from the clashes.

The report is reminiscent of the 1998 U.S. antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, when the Justice Department found Microsoft's bundling of Internet Explorer and the Windows operating system to be anticompetitive. The research also echoes recent government procurement battles.

The report authors, for instance, hint Microsoft possesses "dominant market shares" and say the company bundles Office 365 and Microsoft Teams in large deals to take advantage of government inertia in procurement. That concern also echoes the corporate clashes over the Pentagon's defunct "JEDI" contract for cloud computing, which Microsoft won before the bid was canceled.

The Defense Department contract, which Google also briefly sought to win, demonstrated just how furiously companies are willing to compete for lucrative government clients who may not have the same flexibility as private-sector buyers to switch vendors or try new products. Microsoft and other companies, including Amazon, vying for government contracts often cite security as their main value proposition to the government.

Tensions between Google and Microsoft significantly predate JEDI and go all the way back to the Microsoft lawsuit, which the U.S. settled in 2001. People who worked at both companies say the suit allowed Google, which was founded the same year the suit began, to grow without being acquired or squashed by Microsoft.

The rivals sparred through much of the aughts and early 2010s, especially over internet search. The tactics included Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign hitting Google over its privacy policies. Google, in turn, published evidence Bing was scraping Google search results.

The battles calmed significantly by 2016, although they never quite went away, before picking up again this year. Microsoft President Brad Smith in February endorsed an Australian measure, which Google fought, to give media properties more bargaining power against platforms. Smith then testified before the U.S. Congress that Google used journalistic content to keep users engaged while denying them meaningful opportunity to monetize those visits.

"When a company's success creates side effects that adversely impact a market and our society, the problem should not be ignored," Smith wrote in prepared testimony.

Google hit back, saying in a blog post that Microsoft's claims were incorrect and its motivation was "self-serving," especially as an attempt to distract the public following hacks of governments and businesses that used Microsoft's email services.

"They are reverting to their familiar playbook of attacking rivals and lobbying for regulations that benefit their own interests," wrote Google's vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker.

Microsoft, which is valued at more than $2 trillion, certainly has an immense impact on the market for business software, and it has gone largely unexamined in recent antitrust discussions as government enforcers focus instead on cases against Google and other tech giants. The U.S. suit against Google zeroes in on the company's purported actions to maintain the monopoly of its search engine, which competes with Microsoft's Bing.

Microsoft and Google have also recently clashed over the former's production of documents to Google in the suit. In its filings, Microsoft acknowledged it had more or less cooperated with the U.S. and state investigations into Google last year.

Entertainment

'The Wilds' is a must-watch guilty pleasure and more weekend recs

Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

Our favorite things this week.

Illustration: Protocol

The East Coast is getting a little preview of summer this weekend. If you want to stay indoors and beat the heat, we have a few suggestions this week to keep you entertained, like a new season of Amazon Prime’s guilty-pleasure show, “The Wilds,” a new game from Horizon Worlds that’s fun for everyone and a sneak peek from Adam Mosseri into what Instagram is thinking about Web3.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Workplace

Work expands to fill the time – but only if you let it

The former Todoist productivity expert drops time-blocking tips, lofi beats playlists for concentrating and other knowledge bombs.

“I do hope the productivity space as a whole is more intentional about pushing narratives that are about life versus just work.”

Photo: Courtesy of Fadeke Adegbuyi

Fadeke Adegbuyi knows how to dole out productivity advice. When she was a marketing manager at Doist, she taught users via blogs and newsletters about how to better organize their lives. Doist, the company behind to-do-list app Todoist and messaging app Twist, has pushed remote and asynchronous work for years. Adegbuyi’s job was to translate these ideas to the masses.

“We were thinking about asynchronous communication from a work point of view, of like: What is most effective for doing ambitious and awesome work, and also, what is most advantageous for living a life that feels balanced?” Adegbuyi said.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Workplace

It's OK to cry at work

Our comfort with crying at work has changed drastically over the past couple years. But experts said the hard part is helping workers get through the underlying mental health challenges.

Tech workers and workplace mental health experts said discussing emotions at work has become less taboo over the past couple years, but we’re still a ways away from completely normalizing the conversation — and adjusting policies accordingly.

Photo: Teerasak Ainkeaw / EyeEm via Getty Images

Everyone seems to be ugly crying on the internet these days. A new Snapchat filter makes people look like they’re breaking down on television, crying at celebratory occasions or crying when it sounds like they’re laughing. But one of the ways it's been used is weirdly cathartic: the workplace.

In one video, a creator posted a video of their co-worker merely sitting at a desk, presumably giggling or smiling, but the Snapchat tool gave them a pained look on their face. The video was captioned: “When you still have two hours left of your working day.” Another video showed someone asking their co-workers if they enjoy their job. Everyone said yes, but the filter indicated otherwise.

Keep Reading Show less
Sarah Roach

Sarah Roach is a news writer at Protocol (@sarahroach_) and contributes to Source Code. She is a recent graduate of George Washington University, where she studied journalism and mass communication and criminal justice. She previously worked for two years as editor in chief of her school's independent newspaper, The GW Hatchet.

Enterprise

Arm’s new CEO is planning the IPO it sought to avoid last year

Arm CEO Rene Haas told Protocol that Arm will be fine as a standalone company, as it focuses on efficient computing and giving customers a more finished product than a basic chip core design.

Rene Haas is taking Arm on a fresh trajectory.

Photo: Arm

The new path for Arm is beginning to come into focus.

Weeks after Nvidia’s $40 bid to acquire Arm from SoftBank collapsed, the appointment of Rene Haas to replace longtime chief executive Simon Segars has set the business on a fresh trajectory. Haas appears determined to shake up the company, with plans to lay off as much as 15% of the staff ahead of plans to take the company public once again by the end of March next year.

Keep Reading Show less
Max A. Cherney

Max A. Cherney is a senior reporter at Protocol covering the semiconductor industry. He has worked for Barron's magazine as a Technology Reporter, and its sister site MarketWatch. He is based in San Francisco.

Latest Stories
Bulletins