Hugo Barra, Google’s Vice President of product management for Android, is reportedly leaving the company and headed to Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, according to AllThingsD.
Update: Xiaomi president Bin Lin has confirmed the Barra’s impending arrival on Sina Weibo. Bin’s fellow co-founder Lei Jun says Barra will take up the position of Xiaomi vice president of global and begin work at the company from October — hat tip Tech In Asia. Barra has penned a farewell note on Google+, we’ve included the text at the bottom of this post.
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Coming just months after Andy Rubin stepped down from the Android team, Barra’s alleged departure represents yet another shakeup at Google, as well as a huge win for Xiaomi.
Google, for its part, has confirmed Barra’s departure. The company noted that it is “excited that he is staying within the Android ecosystem”. It’s not a given that he’s headed to Xiaomi, but Google’s statement does seem to hint at it.
Xiaomi has been growing at a breath-taking pace as of late, recently closing a funding round that valued the company at $10 billion. The company has dabbled briefly in international markets, but it has yet to firmly establish its reputation overseas. Hiring away a high-profile executive from a US tech giant is a crucial step toward being perceived as a global company, rather than a domestic Chinese player.
Considering how vital Android is to Xiaomi’s long-term strategy, Barra’s direct experience at Google would also make him an extremely valuable addition to the team. Assuming that Barra is indeed headed to Xiaomi, this is an important turning point for the company.
Chinese hardware makers like Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE have enjoyed massive success worldwide lately, but local Internet giants such as Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba have yet to succeed in gaining widespread consumer adoption in the US and Europe. Xiaomi bounces among hardware, software and e-commerce, so it doesn’t fit squarely into either camp, though its smartphones and software already have a niche appeal to Android fans around the world. The right international team would set up Xiaomi to quickly hit its stride in the global mid-range smartphone market just as it has at home.
Here’s Barra’s own confirmation, via Google+:
A new Android chapter
After nearly 5½ years at Google and almost 3 years as a member of the Android team — the most amazing group of people I’ve ever worked with in my life — I have decided to start a new career chapter.
In a few weeks, I’ll be joining the Xiaomi team in China to help them expand their incredible product portfolio and business globally — as Vice President, Xiaomi Global. I’m really looking forward to this new challenge, and am particularly excited about the opportunity to continue to help drive the Android ecosystem.
It has been an amazing ride and true honor to be part of the Android team at Google, and I especially want to thank Andy Rubin , Hiroshi Lockheimer , Sundar Pichai and Vic Gundotra for their phenomenal support and mentorship over the years.
Android team, I will truly miss you all!
Image credit: Xiaomi