Google Canada Rolls Out Vision for Market – Sort Of

by Jordan Richardson on January 3, 2011

Chris O’Neill took over the post as Google’s country director for Canada in September of 2010 and he’s already rolling out some big ideas as to what could occur north of the border in terms of products and services from the company. As to the raw substance of those ideas, the picture is a little on the cloudy side.

Part of the problem for Canadians has been the “short end of the stick” status in terms of tech innovations.

“My vision for Canada is that we reverse that trend altogether, meaning, Canada becomes a hotbed for innovation and we actually test things here first,” O’Neill said.

Canada obviously has a much smaller market than the United States, so imagining the country as a “hotbed for innovation” is a bit of a stretch. Still, there’s something to be said for a change in the tides and Canadian consumers would presumably welcome the opportunity to “beta test” some fancy new products. It’s the business world that has some work to do, it seems.

“The consumer side continues to amaze me and on the business side we’re starting to see advertisers catch up…but not at the rate that consumers are changing at, so the gap continues to grow,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill went on to explain how Canadian businesses lag behind in terms of where the consumers are in the world of tech. Technology innovation in Canada is “far behind” that of the United States markets, even as customers want more by way of creativity and opportunity, and that likely has something to do with a lack of “progress” in the tech markets. With businesses too skittish to use modern tech innovations to their advantage, companies like Google have little fertile ground to work with.

“There’s a dearth of e-commerce sites here, or the depth of the quality of e-commerce is pretty shallow,” said O’Neill. “We’re far behind here in Canada, so I’m underwhelmed by the actual experience.”

Canadian consumers love to use technology, says O’Neill, which means that Canadian businesses are going to have to keep up. Offering free Wi-Fi for shoppers in retail stores would be an example of something businesses could do to lure consumers – even if it means those consumers use it to check out the competition. “Guess what, consumers are going to do it anyways, so you might as well engender that trust and deliver to the consumers what they expect,” said O’Neill.

In terms of actual specifics, O’Neill was low in substance. When asked about a potential Canadian arrival date for Google Voice, O’Neill didn’t have an answer. “I get asked this question (about availability) all the time, I just don’t have an answer,” he said.

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