History of Xiaomi

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History of Xiaomi
Founded6 April 2010; 9 years ago (2010-04-06)
FounderLei Jun

The following is a history of Xiaomi.

Timeline[edit]

2010[edit]

On 6 April 2010 Xiaomi was co-founded by Lei Jun and six

  • Lin Bin, vice president of the Google China Institute of Engineering
  • Dr Zhou Guangping, senior director of the Motorola Beijing R&D center
  • Liu De, department head of industrial design at the Beijing Institute of Technology
  • Li Wanqiang, general manager of Kingsoft Dictionary
  • Wong Kong-Kat, principal development manager
  • Hong Feng, senior product manager for Google China

In the first round of funding, institutional investors included Temasek Holdings, IDG Capital, Qiming Venture Partners[1] and Qualcomm.[2]

On 16 August 2010, Xiaomi officially launched its first Android-based firmware MIUI.[3] It resembles Samsung's TouchWiz and Apple's iOS.

2011[edit]

The Xiaomi Mi 1 smartphone was announced in August 2011. It has Xiaomi's MIUI firmware. The device could also be installed with stock Android.[4]

2012[edit]

In August 2012 Xiaomi announced the Xiaomi Mi 2 smartphone.[5]

2013[edit]

On 24 September 2013 Xiaomi sold over 10 million Mi 2 phones.[6]

On 5 September 2013, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun announced plans to launch an Android-based 47-inch 3D-capable Smart TV,[7] which will be assembled by Sony TV manufacturer Wistron Corporation of Taiwan.[8] The company explained the choice as to take advantage of Wistron's skill as a supplier of Sony.[9]

In September 2013, Xiaomi announced its Mi 3 phone.[10]

On 25 September 2013, Xiaomi announced plans to open its first service center in Beijing.[11]

By October 2013 Xiaomi was the fifth-most-used smartphone brand in China.[12]

In 2013 it sold 18.7 million smartphones.[13]

2014[edit]

In 2014 Xiaomi announced its expansion outside China, with their first international headquarters in Singapore. Future product launches and activities in the region will be set up there.[14] Following Singapore, the company opened in Malaysia, Philippines and India,[15] and plans to enter Indonesia, Thailand, Russia, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico in the following months.[16]

On 21 February 2014 Xiaomi's Redmi and Mi 3 phone were released in Singapore.[17][18] The Xiaomi Mi 3 batches were sold out within 2 minutes of the opening day sale in Singapore.[19]

In March 2014, Xiaomi Store Australia (an unrelated business) began selling Xiaomi mobile phones online in Australia through its website, XiaomiStore.com.au.[20] However, they traded for only a few months, as Xiaomi soon "requested" that the store be shut down on (or by) 25 July 2014.[20] Shortly after sales were halted, the website itself was also taken down, on 07 August 2014.[20] An industry commentator described the action by Xiaomi to get the Australian website closed down as unprecedented, saying, “I’ve never come across this [before]. It would have to be a strategic move.” [20] At the time this left only one online vendor selling Xiaomi mobile phones into Australia, namely Yatango (formerly MobiCity), which was based in Hong Kong[20] — although this business closed in late 2015 [21].

On 17 March 2014, Redmi Note phablet was announced by Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun.[22]

In April 2014 Xiaomi purchased the Internet domain mi.com for a record US$3.6 million, the most expensive domain name ever bought in China, replacing xiaomi.com as the official Xiaomi domain.[23]

In November 2014 Xiaomi said it would invest US$1 billion in television content building.[24]

In December 2014 Xiaomi completed a round of equity financing led by Hong Kong-based technology fund All-Stars Investment Limited, a fund run by former Morgan Stanley analyst Richard Ji[25][26] raising over US$1 billion, with a valuation of more than US$45 billion making it one of the most valuable private technology companies in the world.[27]

The company sold over 60 million smartphones in 2014.[28]

2015[edit]

In April 2015 Xiaomi announced it would make its Mi devices available through two of India's major e-commerce sites and through offline retailers for the first time.[29]

On 23 April 2015, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun and VP Hugo Barra came together to announce a new smartphone named Mi 4i in India, the first phone to be launched in India before any other country. The Xiaomi Mi Band was also launched in the same event.

On 27 April 2015, it was reported Ratan Tata had acquired a stake in Xiaomi.[30][31]

On 30 June 2015, Xiaomi announced its expansion into Brazil with the launch of locally manufactured Redmi 2; it is the first time the company assembled a smartphone outside of China.[32]

2016[edit]

On 24 February 2016, Xiaomi launched the Mi 5 smartphone.

On 9 March 2016, Xiaomi launched its Redmi Note 3 in India. It was a groundbreaking smartphone at the time in the budget segment, and was well received by Indian customers. It made record sales on the year, and Xiaomi brand name continued to grow.

On 10 May 2016, Xiaomi launched the Mi Max.[33][34]

Shortly after starting operations in Brazil the company left the country in the second half of 2016.[35]

In July 2016 Chinese artists as Liu Shishi, Wu Xiubo and Liu Haoran became the first ambassadors of Xiaomi's Redmi series in China.[36]

In August 2016 Xiaomi entered Bangladesh via Solar Electro Bangladesh Limited.[37]

In September 2016 Xiaomi's cell phones became officially available in the European Union through their partnership with ABC Data.[38]

2017[edit]

On 20 February, Xiaomi officially launched in Pakistan and brought its Mi and Redmi Note lineup to the country.[39]

On 19 April, Xiaomi launched Mi 6, its flagship phone at the time.

In May, Xiaomi opened two MI Home stores; one in Bangalore (India) and one in Bangladesh. It is the first of several planned for the region.[40]

On 25 May, Xiaomi released Mi Max 2.

On 26 August, new MIUI v9 alongside Mi 5x has been released.[41]

On 31 August, Xiaomi opened its first flagship Mi Store in Faisalabad, Pakistan.[42]

On 5 September Xiaomi released Mi A1, which is the first Android One smartphone under the slogan: Created by Xiaomi, Powered by Google. In the event key note Xiaomi stated they started working with Google for the Mi A1 Android One smartphone almost six months ago. An alternate version of the phone is also available with MIUI and is known as MI 5X.

In September Xiaomi released Mi MIX 2[43]

In October, the EU's first Mi Store has been opened in Athens, Greece.[44]

On 7 November, Xiaomi started operating in Spain, making available the Mi A1 and Mi Mix 2 smartphones.[45]

In Q3 2017, Xiaomi overtook Samsung to become the number one smartphone brand in India. Xiaomi has sold 9.2 million units during this period.[46]

2018[edit]

On 20 February, Xiaomi opened their first Mi Store in the Philippines.[47]

In March 2018, at China's annual legislative session in Beijing, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun announced that Xiaomi has "always been considering entering the US market" and will launch in the US smartphone market by late 2018 or early 2019. Xiaomi already sells assorted items in the US such as power banks and Bluetooth speakers.[48]

On 3 April 2018, Xiaomi launched the Mix 2S model which is a successor of Mix 2.[49]

On 25 April 2018, Xiaomi launched the Mi 6X, a successor of Mi 5X.

On 22 May 2018, Xiaomi will open, in Paris, its first French store.[50]

On May 3, 2018, Xiaomi filled to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and aims to raise $10 billion in IPO which is expected to be the world’s biggest IPO raise since 2014.[51]

On May 3. 2018, Xiaomi announced in partnership with 3 (telecommunications) to sell smartphones in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, and Sweden[52]

In May 2018, Xiaomi began selling some of their smart home products in the United States through Amazon.[53]

In September 2018, Xiaomi launched its 4th 'Mi Home' experience store in India. [54] They also launched their products in the UK, offering UK customers to purchase without customs fees.

2019[edit]

In March 2019, Xiaomi was named one of the qualified applicants for the virtual bank licenses in Hong Kong.[55]

Etymology[edit]

Xiaomi is the Chinese word for "millet".[56] In 2011 its CEO Lei Jun suggested there are more meanings than just the "millet and rice."[57] He linked the "Xiao" part to the Buddhist concept that "a single grain of rice of a Buddhist is as great as a mountain," suggesting Xiaomi wants to work from the little things, instead of starting by striving for perfection,[57] while "mi" is an acronym for Mobile Internet and also Mission Impossible, referring to the obstacles encountered in starting the company.[57][58] He also stated that he thinks the name is cute.[57] In 2012 Lei Jun said that the name is about revolution and being able to bring innovation into a new area.[59] Xiaomi's new 'Rifle' processor[60] has given weight to several sources linking the latter meaning to the Communist Party of China's "millet and rifle" (小米加步枪) revolutionary idiom[61][62] during the Second Sino-Japanese War.[63][64][65][66]

Business model[edit]

A Xiaomi Exclusive Service Centre for customer support in Kuala Lumpur.

Lei Jun, Xiaomi's CEO, said that the company prices the phone almost at bill-of-material prices,[67][68] without compromising the component quality and performance compared to other premium smartphones.[69] It also profits by selling phone-related peripheral devices, smart home products, apps, online videos and themes.[70][71] According to Xiaomi's Hugo Barra in 2014, the company sees hardware sales as a means of delivering software and services in the long term, "We are an Internet and a software company much more than a hardware company."[72] However, financial data available at the time indicated that this is either wishful thinking or plans for the far future: 94% of the company's revenue came from mobile phone sales, an even higher proportion than Apple.[69]

At first, to reduce overhead costs, Xiaomi did not own any physical stores, selling exclusively from its online store. In recent years, they have opened 54 brick and mortar stores to combat the strategies of other low-cost competitors in Chinese markets. It also did away with traditional advertising and relies on social networking services and word-of-mouth to publicise its products.[73]

By keeping a tight control over its stock, Xiaomi is able to place cheaper batch orders as demand dictates. Limited availability flash sales ensure that supply never outstrips demand and helps promote its products. In contrast, traditional OEMs incur large upfront productions costs, which must be recouped by selling prices, in order to ship phones, some of which may not sell, out to retailers all around the world.[74]

Xiaomi say that they listen closely to customer feedback, having them test out upcoming features themselves, and building an extensive online community.[75] Lei Jun described it this way, "When I was with Kingsoft, I had the opportunity to work with Nokia and Motorola, two mobile phone giants of their time. One day, I pointed out to their R&D boss, some inadequacies. After that, they merely acknowledged my input, but never acted upon what I had said. So I thought to myself, if I make a phone, you can tell me anything you wish for it or what's wrong. If it is justifiable, we will work on it immediately. I'll give you an update every week and you may even see your wishes come true within a week."[69][76] In practice, Xiaomi's product managers spend a lot of time browsing through the company's user forums. Once a suggestion is picked up, it is quickly transferred to the engineers. Therefore, features can turn from mere concept to shipping products within a week. The company then ships a new batch of phones out every week on Tuesday at noon Beijing time, containing the new software builds and possible minor hardware tweaks. Xiaomi calls this process "design as you build."[77]

According to the patent landscape report[78] published in December 2016 by a patent research and analytics firm GreyB Services,[79] Xiaomi owns 6989 patents with more than 90% of patents filed/acquired after 2012. The surge in number of patents was due to aggressive patent acquisition/licensing deals with many companies including Broadcom, Intel, and Microsoft. The patent acquisition was a strategic move by Xiaomi to strengthen its weak patent portfolio aligned with its global expansion plan to create a defence against patent lawsuits.

Xiaomi's mascot is a white rabbit wearing an Ushanka (known locally as a "Lei Feng hat" in China) with a red star and a red scarf around its neck.[80][81][82][83]

Controversies[edit]

GPL violation[edit]

Xiaomi was unfavorably covered for its non-compliance with the terms of the GNU GPL. The Android project's Linux kernel is licensed under the copyleft terms of the GPL, which requires Xiaomi to distribute the complete source code of the Android kernel and device trees for every Android device it distributes. By refusing to do so, or by unreasonably delaying these releases, Xiaomi is operating in violation of intellectual property law in China, as a WIPO state.[84] Prominent Android developer Francisco Franco publicly criticized Xiaomi's behaviour after repeated delays in the release of kernel source code.[85] Xiaomi has previously pledged to comply with the GPL in a timely fashion but has since reneged.[86]

Comparisons with Apple Inc.[edit]

Xiaomi has been compared to the American corporation Apple Inc., as reviewers found some of Xiaomi's phones and tablets similar in appearance to Apple's.[87][88] In addition, the marketing strategy of Xiaomi is at times described as riding on the back of the "cult of Apple".[89] It is reported that, after reading a book about Steve Jobs in college,[90][91] Xiaomi's chairman and CEO, Lei Jun,[92] carefully cultivated a Steve Jobs image,[93] including jeans, dark shirts,[94] and Jobs's announcement style at Xiaomi's earlier product announcements.[95] Given the above, he was categorized as a "counterfeit Jobs."[96][97]

In 2012, the company was said to be counterfeiting Apple's philosophy and mindset.[98] In 2013, critics debated how much of Xiaomi's products were innovative,[95][99][100] and how much of their innovation was just really good public relations.[101] Others point out that while there are similarities to Apple, the ability to customize the software based upon user preferences through the use of Google's Android operating system sets Xiaomi apart.[102]

During the Mi 4 unveiling conference in 2014, the presentation slides used Apple's iconic "One more thing..." slide before introducing the Mi Band; it was the only English language slide in the whole presentation.

Xiaomi has been also known for their hunger marketing tactics, which Apple also uses. "Sold out in just 50 seconds!" This comment is what an article said when Xiaomi released their latest smart phone, Mi Note 2, and it made more people focus on their new product. When Xiaomi releases new products, they make the shortest time record every time they sold out the new item. Their new products are only available for purchase on their official website, people who pre-registered could get a chance to make a purchase.

State administration of radio, film, and television issue[edit]

In November 2012, Xiaomi's smart set-top box stopped working one week after the launch due to the company having run afoul of China's State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television.[103][104][105] The regulatory issues were overcome in January 2013.[106]

Hugo Barra[edit]

In August 2013, the company announced that it was hiring Hugo Barra from Google, where he served as vice president of product management for the Android platform.[99][107][108][109] Barra has declined to comment on the timing of the Google relationships, and stated that he had been in talks with Xiaomi for over a year prior to announcing the move.[110] He will be employed as vice president of Xiaomi to expand the company outside of mainland China, making Xiaomi the first company selling smartphones to poach a senior staffer from Google's Android team.[111] Barra's focus was to help Xiaomi grow internationally.[112][113] Barra quit his position in January 2017 to join Facebook as VP of virtual reality.[114]

Privacy concerns[edit]

Xiaomi's cloud storage service Mi Cloud stores all the user data in its servers located in China. There were also reports that Xiaomi's Cloud messaging service sends some private data like call logs and contact information to Xiaomi servers. Xiaomi later released a MIUI update that made cloud messaging optional, no private data is sent to Xiaomi servers if the cloud messaging service is turned off, as Xiaomi claimed.

In October 2014, Xiaomi announced that they are setting up servers outside of China for international users citing improved services and compliance to regulations in several nations.[115] Around the same time, the Indian Air Force issued a warning against Xiaomi phones, stating that they were a national threat as they sent user data to an agency of the Chinese government.[116]

In September 2016, Thijs Broenink, a computer science student, suspected a pre-installed app named AnalyticsCore in Xiaomi phones. Upon further investigation Thijs Broenink reported, through a blog post,[117] that AnalyticsCore can send device information, including IMEI, MAC address, Model, and other parameters, to Xiaomi servers. He also revealed Xiaomi phones having a backdoor allowing installation of any app without user approval. The veracity of his claims has yet to be verified.

Sales numbers[edit]

The Taiwanese Fair Trade Commission had investigated the flash sales and found that Xiaomi had sold fewer smartphones than advertised.[118] In December, 3 separate flash sales were investigated. In those flash sales Xiaomi claimed that the number of smartphone sold was 10,000 units each for the first two sales, and 8,000 units for the third one. However, FTC had investigated the claims and found out that Xiaomi only sold 9,339 devices in the first flash sale, 9,492 units in the second one, and 7,389 for the third.[119] It was found that during the first flash sale, Xiaomi had given 1,750 priority ‘F-codes’ to people who could place their orders without having to go through the flash sale, thus diminishing the stock that was publicly available. The FTC fined Xiaomi NT$600,000.[120]

Temporary ban in India[edit]

On 9 December 2014, the High Court of Delhi granted an ex parte injunction that banned the import and sale of Xiaomi products in India. This injunction was issued in response to a complaint filed by Ericsson in connection with the infringement of its patent licensed under FRAND (Fair, Reasonable and Non Discriminatory Licensing).[121] This injunction issued by the High Court was applicable until 5 February 2015, the date on which the High Court was scheduled to summon both parties for a formal hearing of the case. On 16 December The Delhi High Court granted permission to Xiaomi to sell its devices that are running on a Qualcomm-based processor until 8 January 2015.[122] Following this, Xiaomi held various sales on Flipkart including on 30 December 2014. With this sale, the company received press coverage when their flagship Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G phone sold out in 6 seconds.[123] The judge extended the division bench's interim order allowing Xiaomi to continue the sale of Qualcomm chipset-based handsets until March 2018.[124]

OTA remote code execution[edit]

On 7 July 2016, several technology news sources reported a severe vulnerability in the MIUI firmware developed by Xiaomi.[125] The hack targeted a flaw in the MIUI OTA (over-the-air) updating system.

See also[edit]

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