Industry insiders now indicate that Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi will begin pursuing participation and partnerships much more aggressively in 2019 with a new business unit providing oversight for a huge range of products, according to local media company DIGITIMES. Offerings from new unit will predominantly fall into the wider ‘household appliance’ consumer market category with offerings expected to include smart AC units and washing machines among other common home electronics. The move was reportedly proceeded and hinted at via statements made on the Chinese social network Weibo by CEO Lei Jun, regarding a tie-up between Xiaomi and TCL. The phone manufacturer previously bought out 65.168 million shares of TCL, amounting to just short of one half of a percent of the latter company. TCL is expected to play a key role in the development and manufacturing of Xiaomi smart home products as well as a deal between the companies to expand and ‘strengthen’ either OEM’s supply chain.
Growing beyond Android globally
Xiaomi has dabbled in smart home electronics in the past as well as releasing several more prominent products such as its Android-based TV boxes. In fact, most of its efforts in the space have either been directly related to Android phones in one form or another, linking directly back to its work in the smartphone market. Since Xiaomi is among the world’s top global smartphone brands, with plenty of handsets that offer solid competition to the likes of Samsung and Huawei, hasn’t been low-level or small-scale participation either. But its focus has shifted over the past several months to include a more direct approach to the IoT and smart home markets. As recently as November, the company revealed that it had partnered with Netherlands-based IKEA specifically for IoT. That deal saw the development of approximately $14 million in developer funds for independent and established companies for generating IoT devices and software compatible with AIoT.
The partnership also ensured that all of IKEA’s smart lighting products would be compatible with that combination between AI and the Internet of Things, bringing cross-platform compatibility for Xiaomi and IKEA for a smart home environment. At the time, IKEA China CEO and president Anna Pawlak-Kuliga revealed that the deal would expand both IKEA and Xiaomi’s products to serve customers worldwide, hinting at the companies’ ambitions. Coupled with the most recent reports and other partnerships, the implication is that Xiaomi plans to be a major player in the IoT and AI home automation industries.
Openness for a better IoT user experience
Xiaomi’s continued partnerships with other companies reinforce, another arguably more important, aspect of its approach to the technology that was also indicated in its funding program for developers with IKEA. Like many companies taking part in the AI and IoT markets, Xiaomi’s approach appears to be built to some degree on maintaining openness in pursuit of a better overall experience for end users. Samsung and LG have notably worked to ensure that their own ecosystems are completely open to other companies and developers over the past several months for precisely that purpose. Xiaomi’s decision to apparently emulate that should serve the company well moving forward since it could feasibly result in products that help the user create a complete smart home ecosystem without needing to worry so much about compatibility.
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