Chinese Smartphone Vendor Xiaomi Nabs Google Exec To Expand Globally


Xiaomi has hired Google Vice President of Android Product Management Hugo Barra, in a move that could help the Chinese smartphone company break into the U.S. market.

"In a few weeks, I'll be joining the Xiaomi team in China to help them expand their incredible product portfolio and business globally -- as Vice President, Xiaomi Global," wrote Barra in a Goolge+ post Wednesday.

Xiaomi recently completed a fourth round of funding, propelling them from a $4 billion valuation to $10 billion, according to VentureBeat. Additionally, the company sold more smartphones on the Chinese market than Apple.

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According to global market research firm TrendForce, Xiaomi is "eagerly expanding on foreign markets." TrendForce credited three tiers of cost control for Xiaomi's domestic success and gave no reason to believe the company would change strategy in foreign markets.

First, the Chinese vendor is known for revealing devices an entire quarter before releasing them, allowing time for the cost of components to decrease, TrendForce said. Secondly, the company controls inventory by selling direct, solely from its online store, which limits the chances of over-production. Finally, Xiaomi relies largely on free social media platforms for advertising, the research firm said.

Android is the worldwide operating system of choice with 79.3 percent market share in the second quarter of 2013, according to IDC. Xiaomi is capitalizing on Android intellectual property with the addition of Barra.

One solution provider doubts the company's relevance in the U.S. market.

"Everybody thinks they are going to come out with a new device and get rich. The reality is, it is already a very crowded market," said George Bardissi, president of Philadelphia-based solution provider Bardissi Enterprises.

Bardissi said the focal point of the channel should be standardizing what devices and operating systems companies support and what they do not support. It is "cumbersome and unfeasible to accommodate every time a new player shows up" on the market, he said.

Standardizing support for mobile devices and operating systems, according to Bardissi, is made easier by first using a standardized operating system.

"The problem with Android is, there is no set version of Android. It is so fractured," Bardissi said. "Unlike an iPhone, regardless of what version of an iPhone you have, the software is the same across the board."

Though Xiaomi looks to be making major moves toward expanding internationally and has poached Barra out from under the Google wing, Bardissi said the company would most likely not be able to successfully infiltrate the U.S. market.

"Until I see liability in a product and have time to test and validate it, this [executive move] just does not make me jump out of my seat," Bardissi said.

PUBLISHED AUG. 29, 2013