Apple and Dell are facing off in the US education market once again, battling to secure a massive order for 130,000 notebooks, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan State plans to give every sixth-grade student a laptop – and that's just the goal in year one of the $156 million plan.

With such high stakes, Apple and Dell aren't alone in pitching for the contract – HP and Gateway are also making their pitch. However, Apple and Dell are emerging as the front-runners, the report claims.

"Apple probably has the edge, based on the much-publicized success it has had with the nation's two most-watched educational experiments with wireless laptops," the report observes.

Apple won a contract to provide 23,000 laptops to high school students and teachers in Henrico County in Virginia two years ago, and the US State of Maine chose Apple to provide 36,000 iBooks to students and teachers there. A host of similar deals have been announced in recent weeks.

The program is scheduled to kick-off on January 1, 2004. Project coordinator Bruce Montgomery said: "It's important that we select the right vendor because their product is going to touch a lot of lives." The decision will be made in November.

The notebooks will offer wireless Internet access. The deal is part of the Freedom To Learn initiative that was signed into law by Michigan's Governor in August.

"When it's done, it will provide Michigan students an educational experience that will assure this state's competitive future in the global marketplace," Montgomery said.