Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Inc., recently said “Xiaomi is good enough to break the American market” during his visit to Xiaomi’s headquarters, according to Tech in Asia. Xiaomi is a rising Beijing-based consumer electronic firm that is perhaps leading the way in changing foreign perceptions of China. Despite being a young company – Xiaomi released its first handset just roughly two years ago – as of the end of 2013 it held more than 5% of the market share (more than Apple has).
Xiaomi’s flagship is the Mi3, which Wozniak is rather fond (he has spoken highly of it and even been known to use one). It houses San Diego-based Qualcomm’s top of the line Snapdragon 800 processor. In an An Tu Tu benchmark test, it dominated the Samsung Galaxy S IV, its chief competitor. It even managed to outperform the Samsung Galaxy Note3, a bigger device that harnesses the same processor. Xiaomi also offers Mi2S and Mi2A, older handsets that are now serving lower end markets.
While Xiaomi does not seem to have an immediate goal of entering Western markets, it is setting the stage for its global debut. As part of its global ambition, it hired Hugo Barra, former VP of Android Product Management at Google, as the Vice President of Xiaomi Global in August of last year (Link). It may not be too long before we have Xiaomi phones being offered with US carriers. (If you really want one, currently you can purchase Xiaomi from online vendors who offer Xiaomi Mi3 with Chinese specs, which can be used with some carriers in the US on the 3G network but are not compatible with US 4G LTE frequencies.)
Xiaomi is hardly alone in the crowd of Chinese tech companies that are breaking old perceptions of China. Lenovo is now the No.1 competitor in global PC markets. (Link) ZTE, a telecommunications equipment and network solutions provider, is now filing the highest number of patents internationally. (Link) Tencent, a company that touches on mass media, entertainment, mobile phone value-added services, and online advertising services, now owns a bigger market on networking than Cisco or HP, holds more users than Twitter, and generates more sales than Facebook. (Link) Alibaba Group, which operates B2B, B2C , and online payment services through its Alibaba, Taobao and Alipay respectively, is renewing its global ambition after it virtually drove eBay out of the Chinese market. In 2012, Alibaba generated a whopping $171 billion in revenues, which completely dwarfed eBay’s $14 billion and Amazon’s $61 billion. (Link)
Companies in China have an enormous domestic market to work with. Often, they have already become a giant before anyone outside of China has even heard of them. By the time they show their international ambition, they are already formidable competitors with resources and capital that outmatch any Western firms.
Innovations from China are coming at an unbelievable speed. Just as Japan rapidly changed its postwar perception during the 1980s, from a “factory country” to an innovator, China is on the verge of producing innovations at a scale unseen before. The question now is: are you ready to see Chinese brands across America?
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