In an effort to bump up its expansion in to the world of TV, Xiaomi will now pump a pretty substantial portion of of this years profits, a cool $1 Billion USD, in to acquiring more TV and movie content for its Mi TV and Mi Box product lines. Millions of Chinese consumers will soon have even more choice for online content as the battle heats up between competitors like Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and now Xiaomi who are busy making sure they have the best online TV platform. The news that Xiaomi have allocated this amount of cash, is a clear message of intent that TV is the next market that the disruptive and innovative Chinese smartphone player will target.
2014 will for many be remembered as the year that Xiaomi really arrived in the world. The company has been around since 2010, launching its flagship Mi1 smartphone in mid 2011. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, proving itself to be a very ambitious and aggressive company that is more than willing to find its way own in the world. As we look to wards the end of 2014, we find the rebel smartphone manufacturer has managed to expand beyond Mainland China, arriving with impact in Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, India and also my native Taiwan. Devices like the Mi3 (my most used and loved smartphone of 2014 without doubt) and the newly released Mi4 combine solid, high-end hardware with an innovative, slick and attractive user experience – all for very aggressive prices.
As we speak the Mi3 smartphone (think 1080p LCD display, Snapdragon 800, 13MP camera…) can be bought here in Taiwan for only NT$ 7,199, which translates to just $235 USD. This would have been pretty unthinkable back in mid 2013. With products like the Mi3 and the even more affordable RedMi smartphone, the new kid on the block managed to enjoy a massive boost in market share, coming in just ahead of Samsung and Apple in terms of devices shipped in Q2 of this year in China.
Today’s news is plenty of evidence that Xiaomi have set their sights on another rapidly growing market – the TV media and content market of China. Just over a year ago Xiaomi CEO, Lei Jun, officially announced how the company had plans to an Android-based 47-inch 3D-capable Smart TV to market. The Xiaomi Mi TV is assembled by Sony’s TV OEM of choice, Wistron Corporation of Taiwan, and would sport the same quality panels used by Samsung and LG.
Indeed, the specs of the Mi TV look good; there’s an integrated Mi Box (the companies standard set-top-box offering) that brings a Snapdragon 600 SoC which comes with Adreno 320 graphics, 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage plus Bluetooth support for connecting a Xiaomi game controller and headset. The panel too looks good with very thin bezels, Full HD 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, an Android 4.1 based version the popular version of the company’s MIUI designed specifically for a living TV experience that also includes simple integration smartphone and tablet devices.
However one major element of the Mi TV product is that it also offers exclusive access to content. Chen Tong, a former executive at Internet media giant Sina Corp, has now been hired to spearhead the Xiaomi’s push in to content delivery in China, arguably the largest TV audience in the word. According to a post on the company’s Weibo page:
“We want to repeat the success of Xiaomi’s hardware integration model in the television industry…”
“Xiaomi TV’s content must become even more rich and colorful, and become the weather vane leading the industry,”
There is certainly a sense that things are heating up in the media content industry of China. Alibaba executives have apparently already met with major Hollywood distributors to discuss creating exclusive content and have recently invested $50 Million in a Smart TV app. Baidu, China’s answer to Google, are also in the mix to claim a significant piece of this market as more and more smart TVs and set-top-boxes are connected to more broadband Internet connections in country that boasts more potential customers than any other in the world.
Xiaomi are talking about an initial investment of $1 billion dollars, but they will be prepared to back that with more, leveraging its strong branding and its ability to marry high-end hardware with really good software at very competitive prices, the Xiaomi TV experience could catapult the company to a whole new level of success, and in the process, completely change how is TV content is delivered.