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Tuesday, March 14, 2006, 07:45 am PT (10:45 am ET)

Jobs plans rare trip to India to launch new facility?

Apple Computer chief executive Steve Jobs may make a rare trip to Asia next month to oversee the launch of the company's new R&D center and support facility in Bangalore, India.

According to a report in CIOL IT Unlimited, Jobs is likely to visit the Bangalore site during the first week of April.

The trip will mark a rare visit for Jobs, who is usually conservative in his travel plans, sources told the publication. Those sources said the only Asian country he has visited in his official capacity is Japan.

However, Jobs does have a special affinity to India. In the 1970's, he spent four years as a “hippie spiritual tourist” visiting holy places in the country, the report notes.

Jobs reportedly admires India as one of the fast growing economies in the world, but Apple has just around four percent market share in the country for its products.

The Bangalore facility, which was revealed by the India press earlier this month, will reportedly hire as many as 1,500 people by the end of this year, and have a total of 3,000 employees by the end of 2007.

Sources had previously told the India Times the facility would be built for Apple by property developer RMZ Corp in its EcoSpace property on the outer ring road near Marathahalli.

RMZ is said to be creating a 1.5 lakh sq ft facility for Apple in the first phase of development, and 1.5 lakh sq ft in the second phase.

Apple's decision to set up the facility in Bangalore was reportedly taken after a rigorous examination of seven cities in India. It's expected to be on the lines of the facility that Dell has established in India.