Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker and mobile service provider, released “Xiaomi System” today. It’s an updated version of Xiaomi Desktop, an Android launcher that was launched almost two years ago — btw, in China Android launcher  is named “desktop” in Chinese by almost all launcher developers.

Xiaomi System, apart from the features with the old launcher, has more tools for contacts, SMS and direct dial. Sounds familiar? If so, you must have come across services by GO Launcher or other Chinese Android launchers.

GO Series, an Android launcher and a whole lot of accompanying apps/services by Sungy Mobile, has taught a lesson to many Chinese companies including Xiaomi. As I wrote before, there are always some Chinese Internet companies like Xiaomi that want control over access to the Internet, or more recently the mobile Internet.

As early as when Xiaomi just started manufacturing smartphones, its management had said that they expected more revenues would be generated from the software ecosystem besides the one-time revenue from hardware. The software ecosystem had been MIUI before this Xiaomi System.

MIUI is a custom Android ROM. As of the end of 2013, there were more than 30 million MIUI users, according to Xiaomi. But some 25 million, over 80%, became its users because it’s pre-installed in Xiaomi Android phones. That means only a small number of users downloaded it to their non-Xiaomi phones or buy it from third-party vendors — as it’s not that everyone knows how to install a third-party ROM, those vendors charge 50 yuan or so for installing a MIUI in a phone.

Everyone now agrees that launcher is way better than ROM. GO Launcher has almost the same revenue sources as MIUI, paid apps/services, display/search advertising, gaming, etc., while its way easier to download a launcher than a ROM.

Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com

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