B-lame Canada

I think Canada truly is one of the best countries in the world, but there are some glaring deficiencies when it comes to technology. Not only do we pay more for Internet, cell phones and other gadgetry, we arguably get far less for that money.

It's easy to forget about that, at least until a new technology comes along that calls attention to the fact that we can't get anything here.

One example is Zune Pass, an annual subscription to Microsoft's music store that gives you something like 14 million songs for about $15 a month - including 10 songs you get to download and keep forever, even if you let your subscription lapse. This service has been available in the U.S. since 1999, and is also available in the U.K., France, Italy, Spain and all kinds of other markets. Only now is the pass finally coming to Canada at $10 per month (or $100 per year) with no free tracks.

Netflix came to Canada last year with a scaled down service that offers a fraction as much online content as in the U.S.

YouTube's movie rental service finally came to Canada last month, two years after it was available in the States.

Hulu, the online television network of networks, is still not available in Canada - and as long as Canadian networks hold the licensing rights to so many of the shows I doubt it ever will be

We can't get Spotify, LastFM, Google Voice, Pandora Radio, and so on. My Xbox gets a fraction as much media content as you can get in the U.S., especially with the announcement that Americans can now get access to HBO, Crackle, Bravo, Syfy, Lovefilm and other network content.

We can't get the Barnes & Noble nook tablet/e-reader, and we can't get the new Amazon Kindle Fire tablet announced last week.

The last one hurts because aside from Apple, Amazon is one of the few competitors in the tablet market that has actual content ready to go out of the box - tens of thousands of apps through the Google Android Store, over a million e-books, 100,000 movies and television shows and a library of 17 million songs.

In last week's column I mistakenly said that the Fire's storage would be expandable with a MicroSD card slot, but that rumour didn't pan out - instead, all tablet owners can sign up for Amazon's Cloud Drive, essentially expanding storage using the Internet. That's also bad news because Amazon's Cloud Drive isn't available in Canada either!

I'd really like to buy this thing. Not particularly caring about the ability to take photos or video, or 3G, it makes far more sense to get a Fire than an iPad 2. Its custom Silk browser supports Flash, it has stereo speakers, I like the smaller form factor and it's less than half the price! But it's not available yet, and even if it was I doubt I'd buy it unless I had access to all of the features available. Which I wouldn't.


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