Microsoft Knocking Down Turkey’s Door to Join Fatih Project

IT giant Microsoft is very keen to get into Turkey according to the latest announcement from Turkish Science and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün. Ergün has told how Microsoft has bolstered an early pledge to take part in its Fatih program – an education system built around tablet computers – adding that it is also determined to set up a research and development center in Turkey to sweeten the appeal.

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 center in Turkey.”

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

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. This will mean an initial purchase of 15 million tablets by the Turkish government. This big initial buy, combined with the regular future purchases makes this appealing for even the biggest of global players. That is before we even mention brand awareness and recognition.

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 center 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 catchup 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.