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According to Turkish Science and Technology Minister Nihat Ergun, Microsoft is beating on Turkey's door to be IT provider on a large government funded project. The Fatih project aims to merge education with innovative information technologies and radically transform the perception of education by replacing blackboards and textbooks with electronic boards and tablet PCs. The government plans to purchase an initial 15 million tablets from its chosen supplier.

Understandably Microsoft, along with all the other tech giants, is keen to be the supplier the purchase is made from. But it is about more than just the big initial purchase or even the subsequent purchases for Microsoft; Apple is leading the space in table computing which is seeing big growth, and Google is in 2nd place with Microsoft playing catch-up. The purchases combined with the brand-recognition of the young and growingly affluent Turkish community would help a great deal in the struggle.

The latest from Ergun is that Microsoft has bolstered its bid and also pledged to set up a research and development centre in Turkey.

Following a meeting with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer the minister said: “Microsoft declared its willingness to cooperate with local solution partners and insisted that it’s determined to found a research centre in Turkey.”

Ballmer met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Feb. 22 before meeting with Ergün the following morning.

Apple is the other top contestant in the public tender for the project as the issue, reportedly, was the focus of discussion during Turkish President Abdullah Gül’s meeting with Apple executive John Couch on Feb. 1.

The government stipulates some conditions for selecting bidders for the project as it also looks to lend impetus to local research and development projects through this project.

“The production of tablets should be in Turkey and the producer company should establish a research and development centre within the borders of Turkey,” the technology minister said, adding that the government also thought it important that applications be developed with open source software so the codes could be available to the public.

“The companies that can meet these conditions have the opportunity to take part in the project,” he said.

The open source would seem to be a bit of a hurdle for both Apple and Microsoft, which are both traditionally very proprietary about all their software. That said, Apple allows open source software to be made available on its app-store and Microsoft has recently released a free version of Office. Of the two Microsoft seems to be the one putting more weight on adapting to the open-source world, but Apple is strides ahead in the popularity of its tablet the Ipad, while Microsoft is playing catch-up with them and Google Android devices. In that respect Microsoft has perhaps the most to gain from brand awareness among Turkey’s 80-million strong youth.