Despite predictions to the contrary, Exchange holds off Gmail in D.C.

The U.S. capital has had Google Apps since 2008, but users still prefer the Microsoft e-mail system

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When the District of Columbia, led by its then CTO, the charismatic Vivek Kundra, bought Google Apps seats for its almost 40,000 municipal employees in 2008, many predicted that the city would soon after ditch its more expensive, on-premise Microsoft software for e-mail and productivity applications.

At the time, the main reason for signing up for Google Apps was to build and run an intranet using its Sites application, but Kundra made it clear in multiple press interviews and public appearances that he strongly favored a broader adoption of the suite, namely Gmail and Docs, and a distancing from Microsoft Exchange, Outlook and Office.

Hailed by Google and many industry observers as a bold and visionary IT leader, Kundra, then only 34, extolled with fervor the virtues of the cloud-hosted software model, such as lower IT procurement costs, reduced maintenance complexity and improved collaboration capabilities.

"Why should I spend millions on enterprise apps when I can do it at one-tenth cost and ten times the speed? It's a win-win for me," he told CIO magazine in September 2008 in an article titled "How Vivek Kundra Fought Government Waste One Google App At a Time."

A Bloomberg story weeks later declared: "Google Rewires Washington in Challenge to Microsoft." Some even started calling him a "fanboy" of Google Apps.

However, today Exchange, Outlook, Office and SharePoint remain entrenched in the city's government, while Google Apps has made few inroads beyond its initial use for the intranet Start.Dc.Gov, despite the buzz and momentum back in 2008. Kundra left in 2009 to become CIO of the federal government, and now works at Salesforce.com.

Google has made significant progress in the enterprise market for collaboration and communication in recent years, snatching some very large customers away from Microsoft, as was the case recently with Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya, which is moving more than 100,000 users to Apps.

But the case in Washington, is interesting to explore, because Microsoft was given a very low chance of holding on to that account, at a time when the company was viewed by many critics as being late and clueless about cloud software. Microsoft didn't launch a comparable competitor to Apps until mid-2011 when it released Office 365.

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