News broke last night that one of Google’s top Android execs
Hugo Barra is leaving the company to work at Xiaomi.
(There’s also talk that part of the reason why Barra left is because he broke up with his girlfriend, who also works at Google. That girlfriend is reportedly dating Google co-founder Sergey Brin now.)
Alleged love triangles aside, it’s an interesting move for Barra. Xiaomi is a Chinese company that makes some of the most popular smartphones in that country. In fact, last quarter, Xiaomi sold more phones in China than Apple did.
A lot of people call Xiaomi the “Apple of China” because the company blatantly rips off Apple’s marketing style. That’s part of its success. The other part comes from taking advantage of the open nature of Google’s own Android mobile operating system.
Xiaomi takes Google’s Android software and heavily modifies it, stripping out most of Google’s services and its app store. It’s very similar to the way Amazon modifies Android in its Kindle Fire tablets to sell you Amazon apps and services instead of Google stuff.
Xiaomi puts that software on a bunch of high-quality devices. The phones are very well designed and feature some of the most advanced internal hardware available. The kicker: Xiaomi sells those phones for hundreds of dollars less than phones with similar specs from Samsung, Apple, HTC, etc. They usually sell out online within minutes.
So it’s a very interesting career change for Barra. He’s making the move from Google, the company that makes Android, to Xiaomi, a company that takes Google’s work, strips out all the apps and services Google needs to make money from Android, and sells it to millions of Chinese consumers.
Xiaomi is doing very well too. It recently raised another round of funding and is now valued at $US10 billion.