In a complicated love quadrangle straight out of a television drama or grocery store tabloid, Google has lost a top Android executive to Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi. Hugo Barra, Google’s Vice President of Product Management for the Android operating system, will now lead Xiaomi’s overseas expansion.
The story is much more complex than the typical tale of a tech executive swapping companies for more pay. Allegedly, Barra was sucked into a love triangle between Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Brin’s wife, and Brin’s mistress—a Google underling. Forbes claims that the woman who Brin was having an affair with is no other than Barra’s ex-girlfriend.
Barra will enter Xiaomi as vice president. Currently, the company’s handsets are sold only in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan—but rapid growth has motivated Xiaomi to expand into the global marketplace. The company didn’t sell its first smartphone until October 2011, but it’s already a major player in the region.
“Xiaomi Tech was founded just three years ago, but it already has a valuation of $10 billion after completing its latest round of fundraising earlier this month,” said Tech Crunch. “To put that into context, Xiaomi is now on par with Lenovo’s market value of $10 billion and almost twice BlackBerry’s current market valuation of $5.5 billion.”
Xiaomi uses savvy marketing to target a youthful Chinese audience to whom it offers a variety of mid-range Android handsets as well as a set-top box for streaming video—placing an emphasis on high quality for a low price.
“The company last month announced a phone built with a quad-core processor, 4.7-inch screen, and an 8-megapixel camera, for the low price of US$129 when bought without carrier subsidies,” said PCWorld.
Another novel approach is crowd-sourcing ideas that integrate customer feedback into future devices. Xiaomi’s CEO, Lei Jun, says that listening to customers generates brand loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising.
“Xiaomi knows the Chinese market, but when it comes to tackling the global market, I think this is where [Barra] will become useful,” Lei added.
Xiaomi currently holds a 2.5 percent share in the Chinese smartphone market.