Navy's No. 2 official upbraids Microsoft

Navy's No. 2 official upbraids Microsoft

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

SAN DIEGO'The Navy's senior procurement official this month denounced Microsoft Corp.'s groupware products, threatening to seek such products elsewhere if the company fails to make improvements.

'I'm going to Microsoft at the end of this month to say to [chief executive officer] Steve Ballmer, 'You talk about how you create business group process systems, but I'll tell you [that] you don't come close to giving us what we need,' ' Navy undersecretary Jerry MacArthur Hultin said.

Hultin, who spoke at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's West 2000 conference, oversees the spending of an $88 billion annual budget by the Navy, which has 674,000 active-duty and reserve forces and 215,000 civilian employees.

Hultin said he plans to tell Ballmer that 'we are your biggest customer, and either change or I'll tell and encourage the Navy and Marine Corps to look someplace else for services.' The service last year spent $52 million on Microsoft products, according to Navy systems officials.

There are shareware products with better groupware features than Microsoft's products, Hultin said, drawing applause. He also complained that the Navy's weapons systems use information technology that is better than the IT used in the service's business systems.

Grain of salt

A consultant who works with federal agencies cautioned against inferring too much from Hultin's remarks.

'It sounds like a shot across the bow, telling Microsoft to make better products,' said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. of Chantilly, Va.

Keith Hodson, federal spokesman for Microsoft, said the company is 'committed to addressing the service's needs going forward. I'm sure Steve Ballmer will address undersecretary Hultin's concerns specifically.'

Hultin's comments came four days before the bid deadline for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet procurement. Bidders Computer Sciences Corp., Electronic Data Systems Corp., General Dynamics Corp. and IBM Corp. have said they plan to include Microsoft products in their proposals.

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