Xiaomi to enter US market in cooperation with Google

The Chinese company will launch a TV gadget into North America.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 May, 2016, 11:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2016, 11:04am

Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi will further expand in the US market — in cooperation with Google — when it releases a new TV set-top box in the country, according to the company.

“This is a significant milestone for Xiaomi and I am really excited to be working closely with Google,” Hugo Barra, vice president of Xiaomi said in a statement on Wednesday after the product was launched at Google I/O, the search giant’s annual announcement event.

The Mi box will be the first Android device in the US ever sold by Xiaomi, whose online store in the country only sells accessories at the moment.

It also makes Xiaomi a closer partner with Google as the Mi box will be the second set-top box that supports Google’s own TV operating system — Android TV — after the SHIELD from graphic processor giant NVIDIA.

Faced with slowing demand for smartphones worldwide and fierce competition from other Chinese brands, Xiaomi is turning to international markets and new products for future growth.

According to research firm IDC, vendors shipped 334.9 million units during the first quarter this year which represents 0.18 per cent growth from the same period in 2015 and Xiaomi, the fifth largest global player last year, was bettered by domestic rivals OPPO and vivo.

Xiaomi’s new Mi Box is a 10cm by 10cm square device that connects to the internet and streams 4K content to TV.

4K the highest video resolution currently available in the market.

It is based on one of the current models sold in mainland China with a few updates, including doubled memory and storage from 1 gigabits and 4 gigabits to 2 gigabits and 8 gigabits respectively. It also supports High Dynamic Range — technology that increases video quality.

Xiaomi said it has sold over 10 million smart TVs and set-top boxes in China since 2013.

Another Chinese company, TV and home appliance maker TCL, will also make devices that support Android TV, according to Google. The company gave no further details.

Unlike its operating system for smartphones, Google is taking a different approach with its smart TV system, allowing only a handful of hardware providers to install it.

Announced two years ago, the Android TV system is supported by a line of SONY TVs and a set-top box from Nvidia. Google said it expects devices from other electronics brands such as ASUS, Sharp and Philips be rolled out soon.

“Xiaomi is less known in the US and the collaboration with Google can quickly raise its profile in this market,” said Alex Ng, an analyst from China Merchant Securities.

“The main strength of the Mi Box is still its support for Google’s operating system which may not be sustainable in the long run and its low-price strategy may not be as appealing to US consumers,” Ng said.

The Mi Box will be available to the US consumers before sales are expanded to other international markets. Xiaomi did not specify a date or price of the Mi Box. The domestically-sold box cost 299 yuan (HK$355).

Xiaomi will also be one of Google’s first Android partners to make devices supporting Daydream, Google’s new platform for high performance mobile virtual reality devices.