Why isn't Australia a tech launch market?

analysis Visa is set to release its V.me-branded digital wallet mid to late next year in Australia, months after its release in the US, while rival card issuer MasterCard has praised Google Wallet, which, as yet, has no release date in Australia despite its availability in the US. With Australians being some of the most connected folk in the world, why aren't we getting these things first?

(Visa sticks NFC into a microSD card image by Tom Purves, CC2.0)

Australians love technology — we are consistently being congratulated for having one of the highest smartphone penetrations in the world, for example. Search giant Google published data gathered by IPSOS Research in September that showed Aussies are in second place in terms of penetration, ahead of the US, UK and Japan. And, according to Google, we're not using smartphones just to play Angry Birds or post to Facebook, we're using it to shop.

"Forty nine per cent [of respondents] use their smartphone to research and then call businesses — while 45 per cent visit a business they've found using their smartphone," Google said in September.

Despite this smartphone penetration, services like Google Wallet, V.me (Visa's as yet unreleased digital wallet) and other phone-based payment services are either late to the local party or eventually get lost in the pipeline.

Isn't it a no-brainer for Australia to have access to this technology first due to its battery of tech-savvy citizens? Not exactly, according to Andrew Cartwright, country manager of MasterCard Australia.

"I think it's logical that [companies] will try and launch [their product] in their home market first. I also think that because of the scale of the market, it's important to get it right there first," Cartwright said of the US at the Informa Digital Money summit in Sydney today.

Visa Australia's country manager, Vipin Kalra, agreed with his MasterCard counterpart.

"It's about critical mass. You're rolling something out and try and get critical mass. Andrew's point is valid in that the US is a bigger market," Kalra said. According to the shopping statistics coming out of the US in the last week, neither Visa nor MasterCard are wrong.

Of course, he's right. The US is big.

Sales figures for Black Friday alone in the US topped US$816 million via online stores, according to comScore.

Compare that to the local market, which doesn't even seem to be able to get on-board the online express. More recent information released by Google's retail research arm states that 80 per cent of Australian businesses are without a web portal geared to mobile users, despite the fact that 25 per cent of local Christmas shopping-related queries are coming from mobile devices.

Size, it seems, does matter.

V.me to hit Australia sooner, not later

Visa's Kalra said that the V.me digital wallet service is all about getting users registered via the company's online portal, meaning that it's more about the size of the online shopping market rather than the amount of people using their smartphones.

"With the Visa wallet, V.me, it's about getting more and more customers, more and more cardholders, registering into the wallet online, and with the US being a bigger online market, we think it's a logical place to start," Kalra said.

He added, however, that Australians wouldn't have long to wait for the V.me service after the US release.

"Australia will not be too far behind. I can't speak to exact time frame, but sometime next year we should see a launch of the wallet in Australia so they're not too far behind."

Via ZDNet.com.au

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