Hugo Barra leaves Google to join Xiaomi

BY Stefan Constantinescu

Published 29 Aug 2013

Hugo Barra is a name you should all be familiar with since he’s the guy who introduced both Nexus 7 devices to the world, as well as the Google Play Edition Galaxy S4. Last night, on his Google+ page, he announced that he left Google and that he would be moving to China to join Xiaomi.

Let’s back track a little. What did Hugo actually do at Google? According to TechCrunch, he joined the search giant in March 2009 and “worked his way up from Product Manager to Vice President of Android Product Management.” Who exactly is Xiaomi? They’re often called the “Apple of China”, but the CEO (Lin Bin, an ex-Google employee himself) recently gave an interview to Reuters where he said he doesn’t like that description. Lin prefers to think of Xiaomi as a sort of Amazon, a company that sells hardware as close to cost as possible in the hopes of making money with online services.

Why did Hugo leave? He says he will help Xiaomi “expand their incredible product portfolio and business globally”, but TechCrunch has some dirt on him, saying that someone Hugo once dated is now dating Sergey Brin. What people do in their bedrooms is none of of my business, what I want to know is does Xiaomi actually have a shot at going big?

The answer is complicated. Xiaomi famously sells their devices in bulk online auctions. They don’t sell phones like Apple or Samsung does, they announce when they’ll have a palette of a few hundred thousand units on sale, and then they sell out of those devices in as little as 90 seconds.

Who will replace Hugo? We’ll find out soon enough.

Hopefully said replacement will have Hugo’s charisma.

Update: For what it’s worth, Xiaomi is going to hold an event on September 5th where they’re going to announce their next flagship phone. It’s likely never going to be sold outside China, however. Barra is probably not going to be at this event since he officially starts working for Xiaomi in October.