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Google’s Hugo Barra to join China’s Xiaomi Mobile, will oversee global expansion plans

Google’s Hugo Barra, current Vice President of Android Product Management, has announced he will be leaving the company, and in the next few weeks, joining the Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi. He shared the news on his Google+ page, saying, “After nearly five-and-a-half years at Google and almost three years as a member of the Android team … I have decided to start a new career chapter.”

While Barra’s name may not be as familiar to everyone in the same way as Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, there’s a good chance you’ll recognize his face, as he has appeared on stage at various Google events over the past years. Most recently, during Google’s breakfast meeting at the start of August, he introduced the new Nexus 7.

So that’s a reminder about Hugo Barra, but what about the company he’s joining? Xiaomi probably won’t be a name you recognize at all, as up until now it has only produced hardware for China. But that’s almost certainly going to change, as Barra will be Vice President of Xiaomi Global. In his Google+ post, he says he’s going to be working on expanding their, “Incredible product portfolio and business globally.” A tweet from Xiaomi Mobile’s Twitter account confirms this, saying, “Hugo will be responsible for international business development and Android strategic partnerships.”

Xiaomi MI-2aRecently valued at $10 billion, Xiaomi sold 7 million phones in China during the first half of 2013, and Canalys puts it as the sixth largest smartphone company in the region with a 5 percent market share. The company’s founder and CEO, Lei Jun, has been referred to as China’s Steve Jobs, thanks to his penchant for jeans and black tops, and the clever marketing tactics his company uses.

As for its phones, its MI-2a (pictured to the right) and MI-2s have both gone on sale this year, boasting solid mid-range specs such as a 4.5-inch, 720p screen, an 8-megapixel camera, and dual-core processors. Its most recent announcement is the Hongmi, which uses a quad-core MediaTek chip to power its 4.7-inch screen. All its phones use Google Android, but like Amazon, Xiaomi’s version, called MiUI, is heavily modified.

If Xiaomi wants to make a splash outside China, it knows it’ll probably going to have to do better, so we’re excited to see its plans for global expansion in the future.

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