When asked to compare iPhone 5S, 5C and his own company handsets, he didn’t have any doubts. “iPhone is still the best smatphone on the planet, and a great source of learning and inspiration for us”,- Jun told Beijing News in a recent interview.
Xiaomi is one of the hottest smartphone companies to emerge from China in the last couple of years. Except that it isn’t a smartphone company anymore. It may have started there, with heavily customized MIUI Android skin, smartphones and innovative online flash sales business model. But today Xiaomi sells its own set top box, TV set, a bunch of accessories and will soon launch ultra cheap wireless router.
My guess – Xiaomi will sooner or later make any kind of device that helps to connect you to the Net. And they all will be just a sideshow, driving its online services via MIUI community and user interface. Xiaomi is already rapidly moving in that direction, selling most of its hardware almost at cost, making it up with online sales and investor money for now. And they are pretty great at that.
Xiaomi’s MIUI community is already 20+ million strong, they recently became profitable, boasted $90 million of sales in a single day and, during the latest financing round, were valued at $11 billion. That’s for a start-up that is barely 3 years old, and operates almost exclusively in China. Not that they don’t have some ambitious plans to break out abroad. Xiaomi raised a lot of eyebrows few months ago, when it managed to nab Google’s Hugo Barra to lead its international expansion efforts.
There’s a rapid blurring of lines between software, online services and hardware. Apple has been doing all three ever since it launched iTunes Store back in 2003. Google now owns Motorola, designs and markets Nexus devices. In addition to XBox and Surface tablets, Microsoft will soon own Nokia’s mobile business. Amazon gets more and more aggressive with its Kindle tablet line, and will sooner or later come out with a smartphone. And then there is Samsung, who, after becoming the biggest consumer hardware company in the world, now has something like 30 thousand people working on its own software and services.
Lei Jun says that he and his partners saw this coming back in 2010, and founded the company to ride the convergence trend. And they are riding it amazingly well, in China for now..
Should be a battle to watch when it finally becomes global, with Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Google, Xiaomi and others slugging it out all around the world.