In amongst the massive news hit that was the unvieling of Windows 10 a day or so ago, we also got news that Microsoft had plans managed to lure as many 50 new manufacturing partners to its Windows Phone fold. Today we also have news that Xioami and Microsoft have been meeting to discuss (presumably) the prospect of Xiaomi producing a Windows Phone. Is this the right move for Xiaomi, a company whose DNA is strictly disruptive, a company that has managed to thrive in many ways because of its unique approach to Android UI design? Surely not…
Xiaomi as a company are set to go down as one of the most successful companies of 2014. At the beginning of the year, most of us considered the Beijing-based manufacturer to be simply one of the many cheap Chinese phone manufacturers out there that had started to venture out beyond the Great Wall, with aspirations of developing a genuine global presence. Press on today as we lumber on to to the final quarter of 2014, and we have a company you has achieved status as the largest smartphone vendor in China. In Q2 of this year Xiaomi out-shipped Lenovo, Samsung and Apple in the three month period, with an incredible 15 million handsets sold. This year we have seen Xiaomi emerge as real threat to more expensive, mainstream consumer brands, selling really good hardware at rock bottom prices.
Part of the key to the Xiaomi success story is a strategy of selling flagship level devices for far less than the competition, and then making cash on after-sales including customized software that includes icons, themes and more. By leveraging brand loyalty and its own custom build app and services eco-system they have all but revolutionized an industry.
One major aspect of the Xiaomi experience that has proved to so successful and other areas in South Asia in China is the customized UI, known as MIUI. The MIUI Android experience is one that we have been a fan of, one that I personally have become very fond of, and something that has clearly been a major asset to the company. Would Xiaomi be willing to turn its back on all that and build a Windows Phone?
Check out our look at the new Xiaomi MIUI v6 here:
With sales figures the like of which Xiaomi has seen in the last few months, it’s is certainly no surprise that Microsoft are keen to strike a deal. Windows Phone has very little penetration in China right now, and certainly nothing like that which Xiaomi has enjoyed. Microsoft would step over its won grandmother to have a tens of millions of Windows Phones sold in China in 2015, even if it were to forgo licensing and just the software away, it would still be a massive boost to efforts to gain market share and remain truly relevant in a world dominated by Android and iOS. I’m not saying that Microsoft would virtually pay Xiaomi to use its software…but they would certainly consider losing some potential sales by employing a contra-revenue strategy that prioritizes getting more people inside its eco-system.
China especially would be considered an attractive proposition, since Google is all but strangled on the Mainland when it comes apps and services. Microsoft would only need a percentage of Xiaomi’s projected sales forecast in order to massively expand its presence in a country where the Windows brand remains strong. The question for Xiaomi is whether or not such a partnership would affect their current trajectory, diluting their efforts to further establish their own app and services eco-system. I will very surprised if they do.