Xiaomi's Barra ready for BeijingUpdated: 2013-10-10 07:21
As Hugo Barra, former vice-president of Android product development at Google Inc, heads to China to oversee the global expansion of smartphone firm Xiaomi, Silicon Valley's relationship with the world's largest smartphone market is growing ever tighter.
"It is a terrific company," Barra described his new employer at the annual China 2.0 investment conference at Stanford University last week.
Barra said the most notable characteristic of Xiaomi is that its product is completely user-centric. "If you're on the data branch, you get software updates on your phone every week; if you're on the stable branch, you get software updates every month. You don't see that very often in this ecosystem," he said.
Xiaomi, the Beijing-based smartphone maker, overtook Apple to reach sixth place in China's smartphone market, with a 5 percent share in the second quarter, according to Canalys research firm.
However, few people outside of China have ever heard of Xiaomi. Many observers see the company's recent move of hiring Barra away from Google to head its international business development division as a sign that Xiaomi is gearing up to grow beyond China.
"There's nothing wrong with not going global for a Chinese company," Barra said. "China's domestic market is gigantic with huge opportunities. But I think going global is kind of a DNA level thing. It is the vision to want to build for a global audience."
He stressed that knowing users' needs from a local perspective is the most crucial thing for Xiaomi to enter any market outside of China.