Sunday, October 12, 2008
Vivek Kundra, recruited to Washington to overhaul city computer networks plagued by cost overruns and viruses, treats his projects like stocks. The biggest ``buy'' on his trading floor is Google Inc.
The 34-year-old city technology chief signed a contract worth almost $500,000 a year in June for all 38,000 municipal employees to use Google's e-mail, spreadsheet and word- processing programs, giving them an Internet-based alternative to Microsoft Corp.'s Office software, installed on computers. Accountants, teachers and firefighters use Google to set budgets, track truancy rates and map emergency routes.
Google is cracking Microsoft's hold in the business- software market with skirmishes for orders like Kundra's. Microsoft gets $19 billion in annual sales from applications such as Office and beat back a challenge for Procter & Gamble Co.'s business this year. Google won clients such as Genentech Inc., and D.C. provides a glimpse into how the Web company is gaining ground.
``If Google keeps getting big customers like the District of Columbia, that's a lot of licenses Microsoft is going to lose,'' said Jeffrey Lindsay, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York. ``This will be a huge signal to the business community that this product is being fairly rigorously vetted.''
Kundra's business pales next to the $16.6 billion in sales Mountain View, California-based Google brought in last year, almost entirely from ads that appear next to Web-search results. Washington's workforce, about the same size as insurance company Allstate Corp., can also still use Microsoft Office. Google is starting the software division from scratch, and it accounts for less than 3 percent of revenue.