China's Xiaomi poaches Google's Barra to power global drive

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Aug 29, 2013 12:52pm EDT

Hugo Barra, director of product management of Google, speaks during Google I/O 2012 Conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, California June 27, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Hugo Barra, director of product management of Google, speaks during Google I/O 2012 Conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, California June 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Xiaomi Tech, a fast-growing Chinese maker of cheap smartphones, has hired senior Google Inc Android executive Hugo Barra to spearhead its nascent global expansion.

Xiaomi founder Lei Jun said on his Weibo feed late on Wednesday that Barra, who led product development for Google's industry-leading Android mobile software, will join the Chinese company in October as head of international business development.

"Barra will be responsible for Xiaomi's global business expansion," Lei said on Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese service.

Xiaomi is known for portraying itself as China's answer to Apple Inc, an image its billionaire founder has fostered since he started the company in 2010. Lei often dresses in the black tops, jeans and sneakers favored by the late Steve Jobs.

Along with fellow Chinese smartphone makers Huaweiand ZTE Corp, Xiaomi has aggressively seized market share by combining lower prices with quality gadgets, helping pressure margins and market share at Apple and Samsung.

Xiaomi's latest smartphone, the Hongmi, sells for $130, much less than the $770 iPhone 5 or the $470 for the latest Samsung Galaxy model, the market leader in China.

Xiaomi sold more smartphones than Apple in the second quarter in China, the world's biggest smartphone market, according to IT consultancy Canalys.

(Editing by John Wallace)

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