Google has filed a lawsuit against the US government, claiming that it was unfairly excluded from a $58 million, five-year email contract that specified Microsoft software had to be used. Google says that requirement is "arbitrary" and harms competition.

The email contract is for the US Department of the Interior (DOI). According to a Request for Quotation (RFQ) issued by the Department, it was looking to "acquire a single, hosted e-mail and collaboration services solution to support its approximately 88,000 users throughout the agency."

Google attempted to bid on the contract, but was told that only solutions based on Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite-Federal (BPOS-Federal) would be considered. This is a governmental version of Microsoft's hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and other servers.

"A fair and open process could save US taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and result in better services," a Google spokesperson said. "We're asking the Department of Interior to allow for a true competition when selecting its technology providers."

Google had several conversations with the DOI prior to the issuing of the RFQ, and explained that its Google Apps solution was a "viable" alternative to BPOS and would fulfill the Department's security requirements. But the DOI found that two features of BPOS—a unified inbox and secure communications—were critical to its needs. So Google was rejected and the Microsoft requirement appeared in the DOI RFQ.

Google's argument is somewhat dangerous. The company is trying to remove the BPOS requirement from the DOI's RFQ, but even if that succeeds, Google's solution doesn't meet the Department's needs. So the DOI still isn't' going to consider Google Apps. My take on this, however, is that Google is trying to prevent a precedent where future RFQs from other government agencies include similar Microsoft requirements.