You still can’t buy one of the Chinese electronics giant’s smartphones over here, but it continues to tiptoe stateside. At Google I/O, Xiaomi VP (and former Android honcho) Hugo Barra is showing off the Mi Box, an Android TV-based streaming device which the company plans to sell in the U.S. later this year, at a price to be announced. It will be Xiaomi’s first major U.S. product release.
Barra told me that Xiaomi is working on long-range plans to sell phones in the U.S.—”definitely not this year”—and in the interim, a TV box is a way to introduce itself to consumers. “We want to start the conversation,” he says.
With the Mi Box, Barra points out, Xiaomi doesn’t have to deal with all of the certification and technical challenges required to make a phone work in a new country. And though he didn’t bring the subject up with me, the company can also get into TV without the same risk of being sued by Apple or others over mobile patents which it might face if it competed with the iPhone in that device’s home market.