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Google Exec Flees to China Phone Maker Xiaomi

Paul Ausick

Little-known Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has just scored a major coup. The sixth largest smartphone maker has just announced that it has hired Google Inc. (GOOG) Android vice president Hugo Barra to be its vice-president of Xiaomi Global. Until today, Xiaomi did not have a global division.

We noted last Friday that Xiaomi’s sales in China topped those of Apple Inc. (AAPL) and that the privately held company’s market cap surpassed that of BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY). The company sells Android-based phones for as little as $80 in China, and if it succeeds in its international aspirations, Xiaomi could threaten the Apple-Samsung hegemony in the global market.

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There isn’t an industry analyst breathing who does not believe that the low-end smartphone market is going to experience explosive growth going forward while high-end phone makers’ growth will slow down. Even in developed markets a low-cost smartphone will find plenty of takers as consumers come to view smartphones as commodity items in much the same fashion as PCs and laptops.

A Chinese research firm noted earlier in August that Xiaomi’s Mi 2S smartphone was the most popular phone in China, selling more units than Samsung’s Galaxy 4. The Mi 2S sells for less than $300 compared with a list price of around $600 for the Galaxy 4.

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While it is too early to declare that there is a new sheriff in town, Xiaomi has made a lot of the right moves so far, and its hiring of the Google executive responsible for Android is certainly another one.

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