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Gadgets to gladden the geek

TiVo: no. Xbox: no. PlayStation: yes. iPod: yes. Treo: yes. Blackberry: yes.

Be it the world's best-selling portable music player that sits snug in your palm or America's hottest personal video recorder poised to sit pretty atop your television set, super gadgets ruling the globe have mostly been missing in action from Calcutta's tech racks.

But the trend is changing, with an iPod Nano hitting shelves barely two weeks after its global launch or a PlayStation Portable being ready to play only days after its European debut.

'For manufacturers, India was not a prime market as they were busy establishing the products in the Western markets. With iPod becoming a household name now, a country like India is in focus,' feels Sanjay Chordia, an Apple dealer in the city.

Compared to a unit or two per week when the first iPods were launched in mid-2003, sales of the portable music player have risen to 'three to four' a day for Chordia now.

PlayStation, Sony's blockbuster video game console, is also doing well in the city.

'Once considered niche, the PlayStation is a mass product for us now,' says a spokesperson for Milestone Interactive, which markets PlayStation in India.

'Customs and licence issues are what delay the arrival of the products here,' offers Milestone. But once they land, they are lapped up.

Sales of the PlayStation 2, launched in September 2003, and priced around Rs 13,000, are anywhere between 100 and 125 per month in town.

Calcutta lags way behind Mumbai (around 400 units) and pushes Delhi close (around 200 units), but tech enthusiasts here can at least breathe easy with the ready availability of these tools in recent times.

The PlayStation Portable, released in the first week of September, has received 'lots of inquiries' and is expected to run out of stock (50 units) soon. The hand-held variant of the video game console bears a price tag of Rs 19,990.

Cellular service providers are now getting into the gadget game, with Hutch announcing an exclusive tie-up with Palm to make the Treo 650, one of the smartest smartphones in the world, available here. Last year, Airtel had done a similar deal with the Blackberry smartphone.

There are more tech tools waiting to invade homes in the coming months.

Manufacturers and service providers are poised to launch personal video recorders ' on the lines of TiVo ' that allow recording of live television. Zee's direct-to-home service dishtv is up first.

'For most working people, the TV viewing day begins after 9 pm and they miss out on programmes aired during the day, like live sporting action,' dishtv head Sunil Khanna said on a recent trip to Calcutta. 'Our video recording service, slated for a November launch, will allow family members to catch all programmes aired on various channels at prime time.'

Taiwan-based IT giant BenQ is also launching its range of media recorders (capacity 160-400 GB) 'early next year', to fill the same need gap.

All this is good news for the geek. But the list of items missing from the city's tech ranks still makes for a heartbreak house ' Microsoft's Xbox gaming console, portable video players, access to online music stores like iTunes, Napster, MSN and Yahoo'

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