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Not in Canada yet

There's a wide world of technology out there that isn't available in Canada yet and may never arrive - at least in any convenient, timely way that matters. As it is, there are some significant hurdles bringing some products here.

There's a wide world of technology out there that isn't available in Canada yet and may never arrive - at least in any convenient, timely way that matters.

As it is, there are some significant hurdles bringing some products here.

For example, the online television website Hulu is all but impossible to watch here and all the back door ways into the site using web proxies are quietly being shut down. There are good reasons why Hulu is not available, including the fact that Canadian broadcasting companies hold exclusive licences to broadcast the same shows in Canada and the networks that support Hulu - NBC, Fox, ABC and others - are merely honouring their commitment to keep those rights exclusive to those companies. There are also issues of broadcasting regulation and advertising, and concerns that Canada is too lenient on copyright infringements.

There are similar conditions that keep Canadians from watching the BBC iPlayer, Fancast and Joost, or using music sites like Rhapsody, Pandora and Slacker.

The thing is, most of the same television content is already freely available through Canadian websites although this alternative frequently lacks the convenience, speed and user experience of Hulu that made the site so popular to begin with.

Then there's the bilingual issue, which is also responsible for various delays of hardware and software within Canada. It's one thing to offer both English and French packaging on a can of soup, and another to create devices and programs that work exactly the same in both languages. That takes time.

Whatever the reasons, it's plain that Canada is missing out. - This online budgeting tool is drawing rave reviews from just about everybody, but it's not available in Canada yet. The CEO of the company said in October that it could be available in early 2010, but no release date has been set. In the meantime I use, but in my opinion that site has been terrible since they changed the interface - it's harder to find the information I need and the act of going through my transactions to assign them to my different spending categories is unbelievably frustrating.

Zune HD - I seriously considered buying one of these at release and subscribing to Zune for my music, but after bypassing Canada in September I don't think I'll dive in when the Zune HD becomes available here in 2010 (which has not been officially confirmed just yet). I did contact Microsoft Canada to inquire about a Canadian release and never received a reply. While the idea of paying $15 a month for unlimited music is still appealing, at least Apple releases its products in Canada in a timely way.

Amazon Kindle - This compelling electronic book reader was released in the U.S. in November 2007 and is only now available in Canada at, almost two years later. In the meantime a lot of competing readers from Sony and others were widely available and at this point I doubt Kindle will make much of an impact.

Archos 9 PCTablet - To be fair, the U.S. launch of this affordable Windows 7 tablet has also been delayed by a couple of months because of battery issues, but I've been excited about this product since I saw the video at the Consumer Electronics Show. There's still no word on a Canadian launch. Only Best Buy and Futureshop are officially licensed to sell Archos in Canada and neither is pre-selling the tablet, although other specialty electronics stores do carry their products.

While disappointing, there is one advantage to falling behind the U.S. - not being able to buy things right away means there's no chance of rushing in unaware. We get to read the customer reviews first.


Games for Christmas

While many titles have been delayed for various reasons until the New Year (e.g. Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2) there are still a lot of great games to choose from. In fact, this will likely go down in history as one of the best years for video games ever with strong console sales and some of the best-selling, highest rated games in history. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is already a billion dollar franchise and has broken all sales records for video games, while other titles are also selling extremely well.

For the sports fans, I recommend NHL 10 by EA Sports. The 2009 version was hailed as the best sports video game of all time and the 2010 version only improved on this. Driving fans should pick up a steering wheel and, if the have an Xbox 360, a copy of Forza Motorsports 3 or Dirt 2.

PS3 players should pick up Uncharted 2: Among Thieves to play alone. Other solo games to check out include the incredibly immersive Dragon Age: Origins if you're into fantasy, or Assassins Creed II if you like your fantasy blended with history.

Games best played with friends or online include Halo: ODST, Left 4 Dead 2 and Borderlands - they offer a true co-op experience.

Families should pick up Rock Band: Beatles and kids can have a lot of fun with games like Professor Layton and the Diabolical Fox (Nintendo DS), Plants vs. Zombies (PC), Ghostbusters (all consoles) and New Super Mario Bros. (Wii).

Although I had high hopes for the technology, stay away from Tony Hawk's Ride - nothing but bad reviews for that one.