Late last month, the Android community got some unexpected news when Google’s Hugo Barra revealed that he was leaving his home at Google to move to China and start working for phone-maker Xiaomi. At the time, we didn’t have many details on his departure, though speculation about personal relationships between Barra, Sergey Brin, and a female Googler certainly added fuel to the fire. Now, Barra’s sitting down to talk about what led him to Xiaomi, and what he plans to bring to the company.
Even though we just heard about it a few weeks ago, Barra’s move to Xiaomi has apparently been in the works for some time. The key figure in this arrangement sounds like it’s Bin Lin, himself a former Google employee, whom Barra met in China years ago. Since then, Bin Lin has moved on to serve as President of Xiaomi, and continued to meet with Barra and share Xiaomi’s latest hardware.
By last year, Xiaomi was coming to Barra for advice on increasing its global presence, and those informal talks eventually gave way to a more solid offer to come on board and help with expansion. When we did get our official announcement a couple weeks ago, Barra’s plans had already been in motion for months.
As for where Xiaomi’s going next, Barra talks about markets like India, Russia, Indonesia, Latin America, and Thailand and discusses plans to keep costs low by selling hardware with little to no profit margin, but then hooking users with attractive, profitable services.
Right now, Barra’s still brushing up on his Chinese, and plans to start work at Xiaomi next month. He’s very optimistic for his future there, noting, “If I do my job right, in a few years, the world will be talking about Xiaomi in the same way that they talk about Google and Apple today.”