Your visa has been denied: Google's border crossing problems

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Google has become or is trying to become a major player in a huge number of markets. Phones, tablets,computers, music, wearable technology, even as a freakin' internet provider... This isn't particularly surprising, the entire tech industry is desperately trying to move in this direction. Apple has demonstrated the potential value of a tightly integrated product portfolio executed right. The consumer gets a cohesively designed product (or products). And the company reaps the benefits of "locking you in," to future purchases. Now technology companies are moving towards integrated products and solutions faster than you can say Nature UX. So if you are a fan of Google products, this sounds like great news. Now you get excellent, cohesive Google products that work well together across multiple product categories. And if you are a resident of the United States of America, this beautiful dream is coming true before your very eyes.

It's a different world out there

Unfortunately, the situation isn't quite as rosy outside of the US, and is downright terrible in many countries. As a resident of Canada, I have access to many of Google's products, but not all. Things like Google Music (including All Access), Voice, and the Chromebook Pixel aren't available for use or sale, just to name a few. As a Canadian I am lucky enough to be able to buy a brand new Nexus 4 from Google for only $309, but in other countries where it isn't available on the Play Store that number can double. http://support.google.com/googleplay/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2462844. That is a link to the availability of different Google Play products in different countries. Not a very long list...

In a vacuum, this wouldn't be a bit deal for Google. People in those countries will buy the products that they are able to buy, and won't buy the products that they can't. But this is 2013, and in light of he increasing integration between products, it isn't so simple. People buy into ecosystems, not just products. And in countries where that ecosystem is crippled, people won't buy the products. People might buy the iPhone because they can't buy music from Google Play. Windows Phone because they're tired of going to Google Play Movies and finding out that the movie they want "isn't available to rent in their country." While the US may rightfully be their first priority, the "rest of the world" still accounts for 54% of their revenue. Larry Page is right, it would be nice if there was more interoperability between products, but the reality is even Google is using popular products as "lock-in" tools. Unfortunately for people outside the US, Google seems to be mostly trying to lock-in Americans.

Design, the Web, and the Globe

Something that has been repeated on the Verge quite a lot lately is that Google seems to be getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at web services. But outside the US there is another advantage that Apple has that Google has a lot of work to do to catch up in. Global availability. When Apple announces a new product, I can be fairly confident that I will be able to buy it in Canada. But with the Pixel, All Access, and other products, I can't be quite so sure with Google. The recent Google I/O hasn't exactly instilled confidence either. Two of the more exciting announcements, the stock GS4 and All Access, are US only. While Google did beat Apple to the punch with their subscription music service, it won't mean anything in Canada if I can use iRadio a year earlier. And with peripheral products like the Google smartwatch and Glass probably coming in the near future, it'll be more important than ever to improve their global presence in order to support ecosystems like Android and ChromeOS.

Ultimately, this is an issue of confidence. Can I buy into the Google ecosystem and be confident that Google will support it in my country? My confidence might be artificially reduced because of the sheer amount of product categories that Google is involved in and how difficult it is to bring them all out of the US. There are a lot more regulatory hurdles related to something like Google Voice or Google Wallet payments in Gmail than the Retina Macbook. But while seeing US users get these services makes me less confident in the Google ecosystem and jealous of US users, its the big ticket products that really matter. Things like a Nexus 4 sold in the Play Store. Pixel. Glass. We'll see if Google is able to bring these products and more to Canada and the rest of the world. The race is on.