Was Microsoft’s No-Bid Contract a Bad Choice for NYC’s Cloud?

The Obsever broke the news yesterday that Microsoft will be powering New York City’s transition to cloud computing. It’s exciting to see Mayor Bloomberg pushing city government to adopt new technology, but a few details have emerged since then that make the partnership seem a little less sweet.

Mayor Bloomberg said during a press conference announcing the partnership that the city saw this as a continuation of an ongoing relationship with Microsoft. In other words, the city had not opened up the process to bids from other firms like Google and I.B.M.. No bid contracts are not ideal governance.

Google used that as an opportunity to take a dig at Microsoft. “It’s one big filibuster,” Dave Girouard, President of Google Enterprise, told Business Insider. “From Microsoft’s point of view, they get to keep the customer right where they are today, which is ultimately their strategy.” Girouard is basing this statement around the fact that Microsoft is still offering the same basic software packages, renamed Office 365, but delivering them through the cloud.

The city did extract a new deal from Microsoft, however, in which it can break employees down into three categories — light, medium and heavy users — and pay for their software use accordingly. That’s a potential cost saver over the old model of one-size-fits -all software licensing and upgrades.

The real trouble is the lack of a great mobile device from Microsoft. It’s not a killer for NYC’s cloud effort, but it is a significant hinderance. A phone running Google’s Android syncs best with the many applications that run on Google’s cloud. In the same vein, Microsoft’s phone will sync best with its own software.

Walt Mossberg’s review of the new Windows 7 phone, Microsoft’s big entry into the modern smartphone market, was less than stellar. “I see Windows Phone 7 as inferior to iPhone and Android for most average users. It’s simply not fully baked yet.” Mossberg noted that while the phone had an novel user interface and was techniaclly up to par, it lacked basic functionality like copy and paste, visual voicemail, multitasking of third-party apps, video calling and the ability to use the phone to connect other devices to the Internet.

Basically this means that if city employees want the smartphone that best with their cloud, they will have to choose what is, for now, a far inferior product.

Also, no copy and paste? That’s just embarrassing.

bpopper [at] observer.com

@benpopper Was Microsoft’s No-Bid Contract a Bad Choice for NYC’s Cloud?