News Column

Xiaomi enters tablet fray

May 16, 2014

Reuters



Chinese budget smartphone maker Xiaomi yesterday unveiled its first tablet, expanding its product line-up to directly challenge established rivals Samsung Electronics and Apple.

The Mi Pad, which comes in six colours, will have a 7.9-inch screen, the same size as an iPad Mini.

Like other tablets, it comes equipped with wireless Internet, front and back cameras, and a built-in memory capacity of 16GB or 64GB. But it is priced cheaper than comparable iPad Mini and Samsung Galaxy Tab models at 1 499 yuan ($240) for the smaller version.

The company did not say anything about a 4G version.

"We wanted the hardware to come close to, or even surpass Apple's iPad," Xiaomi's founder Lei Jun said at the launch event in Beijing. Xiaomi's flagship smartphones, which are among the fastest selling in China, resemble Apple's iPhone.

Lei said an initial version of the tablet would be available for testing by the public in mid-June, but he declined to specify a launch date or sales targets. It was also not clear if the Mi Pad would be sold outside China.

The worldwide tablet market, which saw shipments of 195.4 million devices in 2013, is forecast to grow nearly 40% this year, according to consultancy Gartner, with China especially seeing significant growth.

Privately held Xiaomi became the world's sixth-largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter of 2014, according to data firm Canalys, after repeatedly doubling its sales. It's cheap yet sleek phones are popular in China, the world's largest market for smartphones.

The company expects to sell 40 million phones this year, compared to 18.7 million last year and 7.2 million the year before.

Different business model

Xiaomi says its Mi Pad will have a plastic case and run on its own Android-based operating system. The company, founded in 2010, leads a group of young Chinese home-grown handset brands that have successfully attracted local consumers with advanced features at lower prices than global brands.

"Xiaomi has a different business model than Apple or Samsung," says Ben Thompson, founder of Stratechery.com, a technology and strategy Web site.

"Apple makes it profits on the hardware, while Xiaomi claims they will make their profits on services."

Xiaomi is now looking to expand abroad, and has already started selling its phones in Singapore and Taiwan.

At an April event in Beijing, Hugo Barra, a Xiaomi VP and former Google executive, said the firm is planning to expand into Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, India, Brazil and Mexico.

In October, Xiaomi unveiled its flagship Mi 3 smartphone, selling 100 000 units in 90 seconds when it was released online. Its low-cost Redmi handset has also saw strong sales in China and was recently released in Singapore.

Xiaomi's success is also creating new opportunities for parts suppliers in Japan, including display makers Sharp and Japan Display, as they bolster their offerings of high-specification features to compete with global brands.

Xiaomi lists Sharp as a supplier and said it had provided the displays for the tablet.


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Source: ITWeb


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