CES 2013: When are all these great gadgets coming to Canada?

This week at CES, we’ve seen our share of exciting new gadgets, ranging from gigantic televisions to ears that react to your emotional state. But no matter how cool that gadget is, Canadians across the country look at these CES announcements with the same apprehension: sure it’s awesome, but when’s it coming to Canada?

For yet another year, Canadians will be watching the Consumer Electronics Show with the sad realization that what’s available now in the U.S. won’t be coming to Canada any time soon – if ever. Here’s a look at why that is, and what we might actually get to see eventually.

Why we don’t get the gadgets

In a recent article for CBC, technology writer Dan Misener outlined the main factors that are preventing companies from releasing their gizmos north of the border:

Digital Rights

Anyone who has ever tried to access a popular media streaming service in Canada, whether it be Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Instant Video, knows all too well that digital rights management in this country severely restricts the availability of content. It’s expensive and difficult for companies to license content in Canada. And as a result, most don’t bother. For music companies like Pandora, paying the rates required of them by Canadian music rights societies is “simply uneconomic.”

[ Full Coverage: Consumer Electronics Show 2013 ]

Size of Market

The other barrier is Canada’s small size in comparison to the U.S. For many companies, it just isn’t worth it to try and expand up here. Misener’s article quotes John Reid, CEO of the high-tech business association CATA Alliance:

“[I]f you create something in New York, or California, you’ve immediately got a very significant market. Or if you create something in some of the new markets in China and elsewhere, geographically, you can touch a lot of customers quickly. Whereas in Canada… it’s very hard to touch a lot of customers quickly.”

Why we get some gadgets first

Lucky for us, size is in our favour when a company is looking to test out a product on a market very similar to the U.S., but without taking as big a risk. A perfect example of this is last week’s announcement by Facebook that they would be testing out their new Messenger free voice calls service here first, and would consider bringing it to other markets after a test run in Canada. Canada has also been a good testing ground for app developers, not only because of our smaller size, but also because of the widespread adoption of technology.

“Canada has the largest penetration of the iOS anywhere in the world,” Jason Schwartz of bookmarking app Matchbook told TechVibes. “This makes it a unique place to get insights into the first version of a product. The mass market here is primarily made up of tech savvy iPhone users. That’s exactly who we’re targeting, and where we think the best feedback will come from.”

What we can look forward to getting

It isn’t all bad news out of CES this year for Canadians. There are devices, either created by Canadian companies or released here as a test first, that Canadians can start snapping up right away.

TrakDot is a luggage tracking device that is available in L.A., but is predominantly sold in London Drugs locations across the prairies and B.C.

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The Pebble watch, which was a huge hit on Kickstarter, finally got a ship date at CES. Those who purchased it through the Kickstarter campaign, including Canadians, can expect their watches to ship Jan. 23 (otherwise, you can preorder one and wait with the rest of the world for more to be made).

And Sony Canada will be bringing two of its newest product offerings to Canada. While they’re still outrageously pricey, Sony Canada announced that two of its much-hyped 4K televisions, a 65-inch and a 55-inch model, will both be coming to Sony stores sometime this spring. We can also look forward to the new Sony Xperia ZL phone, a design variant of the Xperia Z. The biggest difference? You can’t take your Xperia ZL in the shower with you.

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