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Google Government

Google Apps Not the DC Success Many Believe? 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the slow-on-the-uptake dept.
theodp writes "Google touts its partnership with the District of Columbia government, presenting it as quite the Google Apps success story. So as part of his coverage of last week's Gmail outage, nextgov's Gautham Nagesh called the DC government, but was told they hadn't heard of any reports of outages among city employees. Nagesh wrote this off to safeguards put in place for the government by Google, but readers tipped him off to another explanation: 'Despite all the press releases trumpeting Google in DC,' an anonymous commenter wrote, 'Exchange is still the city's primary email system.' Nagesh followed up, and was surprised to learn that there is indeed no Gmail in DC government. This all seemed rather strange to Nagesh, considering how much attention former DC CTO and current Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has received for implementing Google Apps for District employees. Reporting separately, CNET's Elinor Mills was told by a DC spokeswoman that while Google Apps is available to 38,000 DC city employees, only 4,000 are actively using it. The spokeswoman added that Gmail could potentially replace Microsoft Exchange, 'but this decision has not been made yet.'"
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Google Apps Not the DC Success Many Believe?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I live here, unfortunately, and the whole DC government is corrupt and inefficient. This is really not surprising to anyone familiar with the local government.

    • maybe, just maybe, DC civil servants have a good reason for not using Google aps.
      • by ajs (35943)

        maybe, just maybe, DC civil servants have a good reason for not using Google aps.

        Well, I don't think they're going either way... and that could be the problem. Right now, they're paying a lot of money for two solutions. Granted the Google solution is cheaper, but both are costing the taxpayers money. Hopefully they'll be making a decision soon and not continuing to cost the taxpayers for indecisiveness....

        • by omeomi (675045)

          Well, I don't think they're going either way... and that could be the problem. Right now, they're paying a lot of money for two solutions. Granted the Google solution is cheaper, but both are costing the taxpayers money. Hopefully they'll be making a decision soon and not continuing to cost the taxpayers for indecisiveness....

          So call it a phased roll-out? We went through pretty much the same process at place where I work. We used Exchange when I started there. Then there was the option of switching over to Gmail. Then, when things seemed to be going smoothly, there was a forced deadline for when everybody had to switch.

      • by briareus (195464)

        Since when is resistance to change a good reason?

        • Resistance to change by itself is not a good reason. But I have seen enough of the installations from hell to know that when end users do not adopt a proposed changed they often have very good reasons for staying with the old system. We are not there, we don't know their reasoning.
          • And from what I've seen end users tend to have no reason at all for never changing. Theyll use Internet Explorer 6 forever and complain about how slow it is, and if you suggest chrome / firefox and they see that its faster they will begin using that, and stick on that forever. People will use what theyre given, and will do their jobs without giving the IT stuff a second thought in most cases.
      • Or they have no particular reason to use Exchange, except that its Exchange, and that hasnt changed yet. That doesnt mean one solution is better than the other-- ive seen people migrate away from Google Apps because they used gmail IMAP into outlook and wondered why it was awful.
    • by baegucb (18706)

      I would say inefficient at a minimum. 38,000 employees? That's almost as much as my entire state government has.

    • by MrZaius (321037)

      Did you even bother reading the article summary? It is plainly a Google problem if they're misrepresenting the level of adoption by the local DC government. Off to RTFA.

    • I'm sorry, but many forget that most people expect e-mail to work just like plain post.

      I for example was putting up with all bugs and weirdness of Thunderbird 1.x simply because it was easier for me to stay with it than to migrate anywhere. (Doubly so as I was Netscape Messenger user for many years). Only after I have learned that Tb 2.x is going to drastically improve all the bugs and bring more of the Outlook Express craziness to the boat, when I have finally made decision to start trying out alternat

  • by XPeter (1429763) *

    Are all Google needs for Android to take off in the mobile market. From what I've seen Android is superior to IPhone OS, BB OS, and WinMobile so once it takes off with the mainstream non-geek market, It could possibly become the next big thing.

    Google could eventually do something like this:

    1. Make Chrome a browser OS
    2. Established cloud computing services on Android mobile devices
    3. ???
    4. Profit!

    -P

    • Re:Apps (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nurb432 (527695) on Monday September 07, 2009 @09:42AM (#29339617) Homepage Journal

      And how much "corporate control" can you exert over an Android phone? Encryption? They have a central management server you can install?

      I really doubt an offering from Google is ready for the government scene. They may be perfect for home consumer markets, which is fine, but not government or 'secure' corporate.

      • by XPeter (1429763) *

        And how much "corporate control" can you exert over an Android phone? Encryption? They have a central management server you can install?

        I really doubt an offering from Google is ready for the government scene. They may be perfect for home consumer markets, which is fine, but not government or 'secure' corporate.

        People in the "secure" market have phones. The thing all phones have in common is that they can all be hacked; doesn't matter whether its an IPhone or a BB if someone wants your information, they can get it. It doesn't matter who writes the encryption, there's always someone better who will crack it.

        • by nxtw (866177)

          People in the "secure" market have phones. The thing all phones have in common is that they can all be hacked; doesn't matter whether its an IPhone or a BB if someone wants your information, they can get it. It doesn't matter who writes the encryption, there's always someone better who will crack it.

          No, the difference is there might be someone who can crack a BlackBerry with encryption enabled, but there's no widely known attack that doesn't require 256-bit AES to be cracked... whereas anyone who wishes to

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          People in the "secure" market have phones. The thing all phones have in common is that they can all be hacked; doesn't matter whether its an IPhone or a BB if someone wants your information, they can get it. It doesn't matter who writes the encryption, there's always someone better who will crack it.

          Riiiight. Unlike the iphone and other POS phones, the blackberry has been audited from end-to-end [blackberry.com] and is certified to a number of different standards. The blackberry platform has been audited by:

          NATO
          Fraunhofer I

          • by growse (928427)
            GP's general point is right, but he was wrong to suggest that it 'can be cracked'.

            The general point is that if someone wants your data badly enough, they'll get your data. Whether it's worth it for what it'll cost is a completely different question. Using a BB over an iPhone just closes off one of the many vulnerabilities that exist when humans try to handle confidential information.
        • by jbolden (176878)

          No there isn't someone better who can crack it. Encryption really does work.

        • Theres an option called "Content protection" in blackberry options. Turn it on, and all your data (optionally including contacts) is encrypted-- this can be either 3DES to AES, set by the BES. I am unaware of some magical way of getting past AES encryption short of bruteforcing the password.

          Additionally, if your blackberry is stolen and you are worried, theres a nifty "wipe handheld" option in the BES, as well as the ability to remove redirection. Additionally, if your WinMobile or iPhone is stolen, y
          • by cmdrbuzz (681767)

            You do realize that ActiveSync allows the admin and / or the user to remotely wipe the device? Supported on both Windows Mobile and the iPhone....

            And consumers with a MobileMe subscription can wipe their iPhone (and other stuff like locate it / display messages etc) from www.me.com?

      • by Alphanos (596595)

        I really doubt an offering from Google is ready for the government scene. They may be perfect for home consumer markets, which is fine, but not government or 'secure' corporate.

        You're right! Anyone who needs real corporate or government-level security uses Microsoft. Oh wait...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Consider this:

          I've seen lots of companies using local authentication for their linux boxes, along with a supposedly secret root password configured in every machine. There are a lot of centralized directory and authentication options for linux. But, how much people use it? But, they do know how to setup Microsoft's Active Directory and setup clients to use it.

          Linux has ACLs for some time know, something that is way better than the old permission schemes. But, again, I've never seen it widely deployed across

          • Not to mention companies that spend a lot of money with VPN solutions with two factor authentication, and at the same time leave ssh outgoing unmonitored on their firewalls.
            In this scenario having remote access to your network is just a matter of issuing

            ssh2 -R 1234:localhost:23 username@host

            And now, all traffic which comes to port 1234 on the server (host) will be forwarded to port 23 on the client (localhost).

            So, again, there's a lot of people out there using linux without actually knowing shit about sec

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dlgeek (1065796)
        How much do you want? Android isn't some take-it-or-leave-it system like iPhoneOS, it's a flexible platform the manufacturers and carriers can build on. TMobile released the G1 with pretty much a stock android system, but Palm took an android kernel and ran a completely new userland/frontend (WebOS) on top. AT&T is talking about releasing the HTC Lancaster with an android kernel but with a standard locked down AT&T userland with all the crappy "BUY STUFF" apps on the desktop you can't delete.

        There
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)

          Palm took an android kernel and ran a completely new userland/frontend (WebOS) on top

          Do you have any evidence that Palm took the kernel from Android, as opposed to a stock ARM Linux kernel? Actually, reading the rest of your post, do you know what 'kernel' means?

          • by dlgeek (1065796)
            Ah, it appears I was misinformed about the Pre having an android system, I'm not sure why I had that misconception. Yes, I do know what a kernel is. I was trying to simplify my comment. For a more accurate view: the rumors are that the HTC Lancaster will be using an android kernel, android systems/phone software, but the user interface parts of the userland and such will be replaced by custom components to give the phone a purely AT&T user experience.
        • by dbcad7 (771464)
          From what I have read.. Lancaster is dead.. Not saying this to burst your bubble, I had my eye on that phone. Apparently, they just snoozed too long and specs just would not be that impressive to compete. I believe that Sprint (with the modified Hero) and Tmobile (Motorola Morrison) are the next androids coming out.. Verizon will also come out with a Motorola phone as well.. (not sure when yet).. And AT&T just might have their own Hero as well.. will it be modified like Sprints ?, or the stock Hero ?..
      • Android is an open source OS. This means if there's a feature you need, you can add it.

        I don't know if there's a central management server already built, but there's no reason you couldn't write or adapt one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Poobar (1558627)

      Playing with my girlfriend's new Android we managed to freeze it utterly within a minute of playing with the piss-poor camera*, and after connecting to my wifi once successfully it won't do it anymore, for no reason we can see.

      The rest of the phone is shaping up to be awesome (especially when available on such cheap contracts and with google apps fully intergrated), but it needs some improvement to get the non-geek majority away from thier shiney iPhones.

      *(The camera broke when trying to take a photo of my

      • by XPeter (1429763) *

        *(The camera broke when trying to take a photo of my face, so it might not be an issue with the phone...)

        Like the rest of us, your a nerd. How dare you blame the phone?

        Anyway, wouldn't the camera breaking be more of a hardware problem?

        • by Poobar (1558627)

          Anyway, wouldn't the camera breaking be more of a hardware problem?

          Sorry, to clarify I meant that the phone froze while trying to take the photo, possibly because the lighting was bad. It also takes a bloody age to autofocus and then take the picture. Maybe the combination of my horrible nerd face and the rictus grin you get after 5 seconds of waiting for a photo to be taken was too much for the poor software? I'd still probably buy one though, as for everything else (apart from the wifi connection problem

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Nadaka (224565)

        Wait a second, you and your girlfriend were testing out a new camera...
        And you decided to take a picture of your face?

        In the same situation, my girlfriend would have been nude within seconds.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I thought blow up dolls came nude....

  • If Google used this 'news' to help their stock prices or increase sales, id call it fraud. And they might too.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Umm, the FTC doesn't have jurisdiction over that kind of thing. You mean the SEC might call that a violation.
    • by ajs (35943) <<moc.sja> <ta> <sja>> on Monday September 07, 2009 @10:13AM (#29339895) Homepage Journal

      If Google used this 'news' to help their stock prices or increase sales, id call it fraud. And they might too.

      1) You're assuming that Google had any idea. They got an agreement from DC that they could use them in advertising (I'm fairly certain, since no one trumpets a customer without such an agreement) that that's it. They don't get to tell DC how to use it.

      2) There's nothing false in saying you made a large sale when you did. Your claim of fraud is similar to claiming fraud when Ford touts a giant sale of a fleet of cars to the military when the military is just putting them into bunkers and never driving them.

      3) Do you really think an apps sale to DC affected Google's stock price? I dare you to find a blip on their chart.

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        If Google used this 'news' to help their stock prices or increase sales, id call it fraud. And they might too.

        1) You're assuming that Google had any idea. They got an agreement from DC that they could use them in advertising (I'm fairly certain, since no one trumpets a customer without such an agreement) that that's it. They don't get to tell DC how to use it.

        2) There's nothing false in saying you made a large sale when you did. Your claim of fraud is similar to claiming fraud when Ford touts a giant sale of a fleet of cars to the military when the military is just putting them into bunkers and never driving them.

        3) Do you really think an apps sale to DC affected Google's stock price? I dare you to find a blip on their chart.

        OF course they knew. They are just trying to save face ( and their butts ) by claiming ' we didn't know'.

        It's illegal if you knew the statement was bogus and used it to prop up value. I have seen other things like that happen.

        I don't care if it was effective or not, if the intent was there, its illegal.

        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          Cite statue and case law, or GTFO my intarnets.
        • by ajs (35943)

          I don't care if it was effective or not, if the intent was there, its illegal.

          The intent to do WHAT? You're claiming false advertising. What I'm saying is that, ignoring how horribly weak your claim is, false advertising does not equal securities fraud. You would have to demonstrate an attempt to manipulate stock price, and there really wasn't. Now, if this had been a major uptick in the order of magnitude of apps customers AND apps was a major revenue source then you might have a leg to stand on.

          Actually, even then there's the problem of intent. Did anyone at Google unexpectedly sel

  • User Inertia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WED Fan (911325) <akahige.trashmail@net> on Monday September 07, 2009 @09:44AM (#29339635) Homepage Journal

    I work in government. Not DC.

    The problem is user inertia, it always has been, it always will be.

    We deployed SharePoint years ago. Did that improve anything? No. User's still send attachments in email, still use network drives for collaboration, and still use spreadsheets to gather data.

    The spreadsheet thing is really funny. The boss finally put the spreadsheet up on SharePoint and sent a link to it. But you still see people downloading the spreadsheet from the site, filling out their portion, then uploading it with a new name. Then yelling over the cubicle wall that they are done with their tasking. We've gone through training and tried to get them to do it the more efficient way. Impossible task.

    Trying to get users to switch off of software and methods they've used for years is a near impossibility.

    • Re:User Inertia (Score:4, Interesting)

      by duffbeer703 (177751) on Monday September 07, 2009 @09:55AM (#29339765)

      You're very right.

      As someone who has managed a few mail migrations for government agencies, and I probably could guess the reason why GMail isn't in use in DC: Calendaring. I've seen hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted over this bs.

      Typical problem: you cannot instantaneously migrate GB's of email. But once you migrate the accounting department, they won't be able to see free/busy status for the garbagemen, which is essential for some reason. Or worse, the conference room!

      So instead of using the secretaries to actually do something (government office still have them), they wait for a magic, half-baked technical solution.

      • by Kalriath (849904) *

        Actually, Google Apps (premier only) has support for a connector Google built to feed Exchange Free/Busy information into Google Apps. So it can be done with little trouble.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by qbzzt (11136)

      If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Having a theoretically more efficient way to do the job is nice, but having a way that works now is priceless.

      You have to show value before people will care about a new technology.

      • by rainmayun (842754)
        The value isn't to individual employees, it's to the organization as a whole. You'll never be able to show them the value, unless they care about broader organizational goals. And sometimes, those goals are to do whatever the department is doing at the same capacity with less staff. In those cases, the staff will be actively antagonistic to your goals.
      • You completely missed the point...

        The process IS broken and it makes WAY more work for people. Using collaborative software is superior than you make it sound.

        On top of that, in many cases, getting people in a group and saying raise your hand if X would do better than sending a f**n spreadsheet to the masses.

    • by slim (1652) <`ten.puntrah' `ta' `nhoj'> on Monday September 07, 2009 @10:02AM (#29339811) Homepage

      We deployed SharePoint years ago. Did that improve anything? No.

      Could that be because (from my experience at least), Sharepoint is as user friendly as the lost luggage desk at Franz Kafka International Airport?

    • by Danathar (267989)

      I've come to the conclusion that if you want people to change in an organization you have to TAKE AWAY the methods they did it before.

      • by WED Fan (911325)

        Or take away the people...oops.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I've come to the conclusion that if you want people to change in an organization you have to TAKE AWAY the methods they did it before.

        I've come to the conclusion that if you want users to change their methods you have to provide them with a new method that is both learnable and better for them, not just for you. In my experience, sharepoint is generally harder to use than e-mail attachments, makes for a slower workflow, and has a learning curve, especially as it is usually implemented. Seriously, sending an e-mail with an attachment is easier than uploading a file and sending an e-mail with a link to the file. If you want users to have a

        • by Danathar (267989)

          My prior response was a half-truth humor remark. I agree though. The problem is that email is REALLY easy. Anything that replaces it has to be just as easy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FatherDale (1535743)
      Huh? Let's see.... I have a fast Exchange server and a bulletproof client with all sorts of fun add-ons. Sure, I'll trade that for a web-based service! If that's inertia, I have tons.
  • "This all seemed rather strange to Nagesh, considering how much attention former DC CTO and current Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has received for implementing Google Apps for District employees." This part looks very interesting to me as in the past few weeks a lot of things Mr Vivek Kundra has been claiming he done in the past have turned out not true and has opened a lot of questions about his experience and expertise. You just had the John C.Dvorak blog bring up a lot of questions and day by day it seems h
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TheLink (130905)

      Dvorak? Isn't he famous for trolling[1] people to get more ad hits?

      He makes insinuations that Vivek might not have the degree he claimed to have. But he doesn't do a thorough investigation, and just shoots his mouth first.

      Maybe the UMD newsdesk is wrong (they could be after all), but they did say that:

      "Vivek Kundra moved from chief technology officer of D.C. to being the first federal chief information officer, working in the White House. Kundra holds an undergraduate degree from UM in psychology and a mast

  • by bfwebster (90513) on Monday September 07, 2009 @09:59AM (#29339793) Homepage

    While I was living in DC (in the District itself, mind you) and working for PricewaterhouseCoopers, I met with the CIO of the DC Public Schools to see about doing some pro bono work to help with their information technology problems. She spent an hour describing just how wretched, disjoint, and underutilized their IT infrastructure was, and we came to the joint conclusion that there wasn't a lot that I could do to help.

    This was about 10 years ago, and I was looking just as the DC Public Schools system, not the District as a whole. But as anyone (else) who has lived in the District for an extended period, particularly as a private citizen, can tell you, the District of Columbia is a profoundly dysfunctional government.

    That said, I'm not sure Google should be going around touting their adoption in the District as a success story, since -- as per the original post above -- any effort to check out what's actually going on is likely to be quite disappointing. ..bruce..

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Monday September 07, 2009 @10:24AM (#29339993) Homepage

    The spokeswoman added that Gmail could potentially replace Microsoft Exchange, 'but this decision has not been made yet.'"

    Quit dorking around the flip the switch already. We did and it was the best move we ever made. It was a little rocky at first, then smooth sailing ever since. We've noticed two outages in the last year, I think there have been three total. Only the recent one generated any calls. Overall that makes it more reliable than Exchange.

    Not sure what holds companies back from making the change. I've heard the arguments, they don't hold up to reality. Google doesn't spy on our email and if it's something really sensitive we can add a password to the document or encrypt the content. I've done that exactly once in the last year. Your company email passes unencrypted through dozens of relays, regardless of what email provider you use. Any one of those relays could be copying and storing those messages. So what would make Google any bigger risk than any one of them?

    Backups are the other thing I hear about a lot. If it's that important, you can set up Gmail to auto-forward some or all of your messages to another account or you can use any number of tools in Windows, Linux and Mac to keep backups, if you feel the need. So far email backups have been a big waste of time and drive space, but I suppose it's better that small waste than a big loss if something bad did happen.

    That change freed up a lot of money. We didn't need an Exchange admin and we saved a bundle on license fees.

    • by Poobar (1558627)

      Not sure what holds companies back from making the change. I've heard the arguments, they don't hold up to reality. Google doesn't spy on our email and if it's something really sensitive we can add a password to the document or encrypt the content. I've done that exactly once in the last year.

      "Hmm, wonder which one of his emails holds the Top Secret Data...".

      "Maybe the one that's encypted?"

      "Nah, it's probably one of the others!"

      Seriously though, if you need to rarely send sensitive data, isn't it far more secure if you encrypt everything you send, and for very little extra effort?

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      3 times in the last year? My mail server hasn't been unavailable outside of a short scheduled maintaince window 3 times in the last 10 years.

      You can put your email on someone elses servers, thats fine, I won't. My internal email doesn't pass over anything unencrypted, our servers require SSL or TLS.

      Doing backups on the client side? Have you ever dealt with more than 3 PCs before? Are you nucking futz? My email backup is an rsync command line. It may be hard for someone who is clueless, but anyone with

    • Not sure what holds companies back from making the change.

      A conservative approach to new technologies, when the old ones work good enough. The need for SLAs and other vendor agreements. Lawyers insisting on data retention policies. The rational or irrational concern of being out of control if something goes wrong.

      Google doesn't spy on our email

      Actually, Google *does* spy on your email, definitely for advertising, probably for marketing, and possibly they (or individuals with access) are corrupt, but that's not the big privacy concern about Google.

      The big problem lawyers have with Gmail is th

    • by vxvxvxvx (745287)

      Your company email passes unencrypted through dozens of relays, regardless of what email provider you use. Any one of those relays could be copying and storing those messages. So what would make Google any bigger risk than any one of them?

      I worked at a software company that produced the software used by an unnamed nation-wide tax preparation company. While returns moving from office to office or to the IRS filing centers were sent securely, if any problems came up with a return it was standard operating procedure to email the tax returns. This is a document that includes your current name, address, SSN, the amount of money you made, and your banks routing and account numbers (for direct deposit.) Usually it was the program specific file whic

  • by herojig (1625143) on Monday September 07, 2009 @10:38AM (#29340127) Homepage

    As an ex-DC resident of many years, I had to laugh out loud when I read that there even was a partnership between Google and DC gov, and I was rolling on the floor thinking about the DC DMV using google docs or calender. I think most have just mastered the Google search field...maybe. I agree with WED Fan above, DC workers are not going to embracing new tech anytime soon. They are still suffering heart attacks over the office 2007 ribbon. And about those 4,000 that have made the huge dramatic mt. Everest leap to gmail, I bet most of them just have home accounts. Even more hilarious was when I searched for a DC gov group and only found ONE. It has 3 members and ONE post. Boy, they are really using that Goog feature no? But I may have a chip on my shoulder, as when I went into south west DC to renew my driver's license right around the time of the last Clinton election, I was asked first if I was a Republican or a Dem before getting any service. I told the big bottomed woman that I was of course a Dem and not to be fooled by my Fitzgerald Bold Pinstripe from Brooks Bros. We had a laugh, but I seriously think that if I had told the truth I would not have gotten renewed in the blazing speed that I did (two hours). For sure that lady is not using any kind of cloud computing today, unless you count daydreaming at the terminal.

  • So now you have to rely on the public servants ability to make a password that's not some ones birthday; at least in the old days you would have to wait until they left their laptop or thumb drive in the back of a cab before you could access everyone information. hmm progress
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday September 07, 2009 @11:11AM (#29340415)

    What I recall reading was that in 2008, DC decided to start transitioning to Google Docs for replacing Word and Excel, and as a starting point for an all web application interface going forward. There was one brief mention that Gmail would be provided as well, but nothing that said they were going to use it as the primary e-mail client/server.

    So I guess my question would be, where is DC with this transition and where had they planned to be? Since e-mail was not the focus of the project, where are they with the other applications? Have they signed any new licenses for MSOffice or for a new version? Do they have any desktops without MSOffice? Do any of there users run word processing and spreadsheets with Google Apps instead of Word and Excel?

  • This may be kind of a dumb question, but what does whether or not DC uses Gmail have to do with their deal for Google Apps?

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