Xiaomi, the Chinese smart device maker and Internet service developer, isn’t moving slowly in, apart from smartphone, smart home or wearables. Actually it seems a little bit too fast that angered many Chinese startups in the two sectors. The first activity tracker Xiaomi launched last month is sold at RMB 79 (about US$13), a fraction of the prices for other similar products — less than 1/11 of that for a Fitbit Flex. Local fitness band makers assert that the company is killing a budding industry. Broadlink, which offers WiFi solutions for smart home, now reportedly accuses Xiaomi of unilaterally terminating their partnership and developing in-house competing products such as smart socket and remote controller (report in Chinese).
Xiaomi has made it clear that their hardware products would be “sold at cost”, and they’d build a unified software platform, a custom Android system named MIUI, for all the hardware products, from mobile devices to smart home appliances. That’s apparently why the fitness tracker is sold at such a low price and the company would build smart home products on its own or through affiliate companies — The fitness band is produced by Huami Technology (not official translation) which is venture backed by Shunwei China Internet Fund L.P., a fund with Xiaomi CEO Leijun as founding partner and chairman, according to this report by a local newspaper in Hefei, where Huami is based. (in Chinese).
While it is constantly compared to Apple and called supercloner by Westerners, Xiaomi is moving with a logic that seems more acceptable by Chinese. Shortly after HiWiFi, a WiFi router loaded with Android and has an application store, was launched, many Chinese immediately came to the conclusion that it could be a hub to control all the smart devices in a home, and new applications would be created to meet more user needs or to have impact on the user experience of Internet services carried by those connected devices. So did Xiaomi who’d develop one before long.
Tang Mu, lead of Xiaomi smart WiFi router, talked about the WiFi router – centered smart home solution the company has been building yesterday at 2014 Macworld Asia conference. He pointed out another reason that WiFi router should be the hub is it’s one of the few home appliances that stays on 24/7/365.
Not only do they expect the router to become the hub to talk to other connected devices, they also want it to store all the the data, photos, videos, games and the like, for a whole family.
Xiaomi think, according to Tang, the ways by traditional home appliance makers who wanted to smartize their existing products were wrong. He argues that people who have had a home full of traditional appliances won’t be the major audience of smart home products. Instead, the audience should be those who’d at least like to play with a smart WiFi router .
The company has come up with a WiFi solution, named Xiaomi Smart Chipset (not official translation). Mr. Tang said they’d sell the solution to hardware startups at a low price and let them use the website where Xiaomi sells every product of its own.
Xiaomi’s own smart home hardware products have had the WiFi routers, smart TV, and set-top box. It will soon launch smart socket or remote controller if Broadlink is right. The fitness tracking band can be part of the smart home solution too, for it now can unlock a Xiaomi phone and it won’t be long before it’s able to unlock other Xiaomi devices.