Chromecast comes to South Korea and Australia, now in 24 countries

Google’s quest to bring Chromecast everywhere continued with an expansion to Australia, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Belgium and Portugal in May of 2014. Chromecast is now available in 24 countries and territories.

The company struck a few partnerships with content providers in these countries, bringing cast capabilities to apps like NTT docomo in Japan and Tving and Hoppin in South Korea.

Users will obviously also be able to cast from Google’s own apps, with YouTube being especially popular in some of these countries. South Korea has long been the country with YouTube’s biggest mobile usage, with more than 60 percent of all YouTube views there now coming from mobile devices, according to a Google blog post.

This post was updated at 10:31 a.m. to reflect the fact that the international expansion actually happened nine months ago.

It’s confirmed: Netflix is launching in Japan this fall

Netflix is getting ready to enter the Asian market: The video streaming service will launch in Japan this fall. News of the expansion first broke on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, with CNBC reporter Julia Borstin tweeting that “sources familiar with the situation” had told the network Netflix was going to Japan this fall. A Netflix spokesperson initially declined to comment when contacted for this story, but the service eventually confirmed the news on Twitter:

In a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, Netflix said that it promoted its Chief Partnerships Officer Greg Peters, who speaks Japanese, to become the general manager of Netflix Japan. The release also quotes Netflix CEO Reed Hastings:

“With its rich culture and celebrated creative traditions, Japan is a critical component of our plan to connect people around the world to stories they love. As we expand into Asia, we’re excited Netflix members increasingly will have access to some of their favorite movies and TV shows no matter where they are.”

Netflix surprised investors last month when executives announced as part of the company’s Q4 earnings that they wanted to complete the company’s international expansion to a total of 200 countries within the next two years. Netflix currently operates in close to 50 countries, and has announced that it is going to launch in Australia and New Zealand next month.

The majority of Netflix customers still reside in the U.S., but the company has for some time seen more growth in international markets. In fact, late last year, Netflix added two international subscribers for every new domestic subscriber.

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Some international markets have in the past proven challenging for Netflix. In Latin America, for example, the company initially struggled with payment problems. But it has since managed to turn the situation around, and now has more than five million subscribers across that region.

The launch in Japan will be the first time Netflix has entered the Asian market, which comes with its own set of opportunities and challenges. Japan in particular is a very mobile-centric country, which Netflix should be well-prepared for: The company has been heavily investing in its mobile experience over the past couple of months.

Content and regulatory issues could also be challenging, especially as Netflix looks to take its service to other markets in Asia in its quest to cover the entire world by the end of next year. China is heavily regulated, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had to admit during the company’s most recent earnings call that it isn’t certain that Netflix will get a license to operate in China.

This post was updated at 4:38pm with Netflix’s official confirmation.

Google to release Nexus Player in Japan next month

Google’s Nexus Player won’t be exclusive to North America for much longer: The device will start selling in Japan next month, and other international rollouts may not be far behind. Google announced in a blog post Thursday that it will sell the Nexus Player for JPY12,800 (about $109) at the end of February. Local apps for the device will include Hulu Plus, Videomarket.jp as well as Google’s own YouTube and Google Play Movies services.

Up until now, the Nexus Player has only been available in the U.S. and Canada. Google first launched the device on its Google Play store in November, and made it available in stores like Best Buy and Walmart earlier this week.

Google hasn’t said where the Nexus Player will launch next, but Europe would be an obvious choice: The company has struck a number of alliances with local TV and internet operators to build Android TV-based set-top boxes in Europe, and Philips / AOC is about to introduce its Android TV-based TV sets across the continent as well, which should both get local content services to build Android TV-compatible apps.

For a detailed look at the Nexus Player’s Android TV platform, check the video below:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg4qaq2mteU]

This Japan-bound Firefox phone is transparently gorgeous

Most phones running Mozilla’s mobile Firefox OS to this point have been drab and cheap affairs. But take a look at the latest Firefox phone headed to Japan: Called Fx0, it’s the highest-performance Firefox phone we’ve seen so far, wrapped in an unusual and gorgeous transparent body.

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Although Mozilla and KDDI, its Japanese carrier partner, are calling the Fx0 a “high-spec” device, that’s only in comparison to other Firefox phones that cost under $50. With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, 1.5GB of RAM, and a 4.7-inch, 720 x 1280 screen packed into its translucent shell, it’ll leave Firefox phones like the Cloud FX in the dust, but won’t stand up to the best that Android or iOS offers. The Fx0 will support NFC and LTE; the first Firefox phone to do so.

The Fx0 isn’t just pretty for its own sake. Designed by Tokujin Yoshioka — who has work in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Pompidou Centre in Paris — and manufactured by LG, the transparent shell is supposed to reflect “the openness, freedom and transparency that are core to the Mozilla mission.” For most people, they will simply think this phone looks cool. After all, there aren’t a lot of transparent phones readily available.

In Japan, the Fx0 will cost 50,000 yen, or about $416 dollars when it goes on sale on January 6th. (A limited sale starts on December 25th.)

That easily makes it the most expensive Firefox phone and puts it in a price category where it will have to compete with awfully compelling Android devices which are often less expensive. But KDDI seems to be planning to give the Firefox ecosystem as much of a boost as it can, with a dedicated website meant to encourage developers. One thing that would certainly give Firefox OS a little bit of a momentum is if this translucent gem became available in the United States.

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