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.

Iliad’s Xavier Niel buys Orange Switzerland, growing his empire

French telecom tycoon Xavier Niel may have seen his offers for T-Mobile US rebuffed, but it looks like he’s going to get his hands on a mobile carrier after all. Niel’s private holding company NJJ Capital is buying Orange Switzerland for €2.3 billion (U.S. $2.8 billion) and expects to close the deal in the first quarter after getting regulatory approval.

This deal is a bit different from the [company]T-Mobile[/company] bid, since Neil is buying it direct through private equity. Over the summer, French ISP [company]Iliad[/company], which Neil founded and controls, offered to buy Deutsche Telekom’s controlling interest in T-Mobile US, but [company]DT[/company] and T-Mobile turned it down.

Niel has had more luck on Europe where he bought Monaco Telecom from [company]Cable and Wireless Communications[/company] in April. Orange Switzerland, however, is a far bigger prize, and ironically it bears the name of one of Iliad’s biggest competitors in France. Orange Switzerland isn’t part of the [company]Orange[/company] Group anymore. Orange sold its Swiss operations to Apax Partners in 2012 after Apax won a bidding war that included – you guessed it – Xavier Niel. There have also been reports that Iliad is interested in buying French mobile competitor Boygues Telecom, though Niel has downplayed them.

There’s no word yet on what Niel will do with the Swiss mobile carrier if and when the deal closes. In France, Iliad’s Free Mobile has set off a price war, driving down mobile rates across the country. We might see the same thing across France’s alpine border.

Ex-Skypers unveil Wire app, offering voice, messaging and more

The free service is currently available on iOS, Android and OS X, though an in-browser version will arrive soon. It’s been under development for two years and has a very credible team behind it. However, its security mechanisms remain a mystery.

Chromecast is now available in 18 countries

Turns out Chromecast didn’t just launch in Japan and Australia this week: Google (S GOOG) is also bringing its streaming stick to Belgium, Switzerland and Portugal. Combined with the European launch earlier this year and the expansion to South Korea two weeks ago, this means that Chromecast is now available in a total of 18 countries. Google VP of Product Management Mario Queiroz told me late last year that the company intended to launch in “a number of international markets,” in 2014, adding that people were going to be “pleasantly surprised” by the scope of this international expansion.

Android alarms set to improve as Google buys Timely maker Bitspin

Google(s goog) has bought a small Swiss app developer called Bitspin, known for its Timely alarm clock app. Timely has a neat gesture-based user interface, a “Smart Rise” mode that gently introduces the alarm sound ahead of time in order to wake the user from a deep sleep, and the ability to synchronize alarms between devices. The Zurich-based outfit said in a weekend post that the app would “continue to work as it always has,” but I daresay we’ll also see the stock Android alarm get a bit smarter soon.

Secure cloud firm Tresorit boosts hacker bounty to $25,000

Cloud storage outfit Tresorit still hasn’t been hacked, it would like the world to know. Having posted a $10,000 hacker bounty in April, the firm has now upped the stakes to $25,000 and invited researchers from the likes of MIT and Stanford to take up the challenge. Tresorit is trying to pitch itself to the security-conscious – it encrypts data before it leaves the device, and it recently moved its operations from Hungary to Switzerland, claiming Swiss neutrality laws would provide extra jurisdictional protection for its users.

Meet the man who’s beating Airbnb in Europe

European vacation rentals site HouseTrip has everything going for it right now: not least fast growth and a fresh new round of funding. Co-founder Arnaud Bertrand lays out why he thinks his site can carry on winning — and reveals the scale of his ambition.