Years ago, if Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs called out a competitor for stealing designs, that competitor was usually Google or Samsung. But now Apple has a new fixation, which came out in Vanity Fair’s rare interview with design chief Jony Ive. And that's Chinese handset maker Xiaomi, often dubbed with the unofficial nickname "Apple of China."
This is what Ive had to say about Xiaomi in a response to an audience question:
“I’ll stand a little bit harsh, I don’t see it as flattery. When you’re doing something for the first time, you don’t know it’s going to work. You spend seven or eight years working on something, and then it’s copied. I have to be honest, the first thing I can think, all those weekends that I could have at home with my family but didn’t. I think it’s theft, and it’s lazy.”
Xiaomi also happens to be the handset maker that is wreaking havoc on Apple and Samsung's smartphone business in China. Xiaomi holds 14 percent of the Chinese smartphone market (Samsung has 12 percent and Apple even less), according to Canalysis. It took 5.1 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter, according to Strategy Analytics.
The Beijing company established in 2010 makes a variety of products, though the ones its most known for are its line of Mi smartphones, which are known to sell out in seconds through online retailers. Samsung in particular has felt the brunt of competition from both sides as Apple’s larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have seen record-reaking sales and Chinese smartphone makers continue to take away share from the low and mid-tier markets. As a result, Samsung is expected to post its first annual earnings drop this year.
While Ive’s comment was blunt, it still bore a toned-down resemblance to remarks made by Jobs to biographer Walter Isaacon about Google Android:
“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
Despite some accusations that the company and its CEO, Lei Jun, merely copies Apple’s design philosophy and presentation style, it hasn’t stopped people from buying Xiaomi's devices. Indeed, one could argue that getting called out by Apple is a sign, well, that Xiaomi has made it.