Only time will tell if this is the precursor to a Windows-based Xiaomi phone, but Microsoft Corp. has announced that it will partner with the Chinese smartphone giant to test its Windows 10 software, which is set to launch this summer. Microsoft revealed this as part of its announcements for the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Shenzen, China, in a blogpost on Tuesday.
“Through a new program with Xiaomi, one of the top smartphone distributors in the world, a select group of Xiaomi Mi 4 power users will be invited to help test Windows 10 and contribute to its future release later this year,” Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president for operating systems, said in the post. “These power users will have the opportunity to download the Windows 10 Technical Preview – installing it and providing their feedback to Microsoft.”
After Microsoft’s July 2013 organizational restructuring, Myerson is widely seen as a rising, if slightly abrasive, star within Microsoft, and the company's choice to have him announce the Xiaomi partnership adds to its significance.
Microsoft’s Windows smartphones, made mostly by what was formerly Nokia, and other smartphone partners, are no competition to Apple Inc.’s iPhones or Samsung Electronic Co. Ltd.'s Galaxy phones in the U.S., selling very few units in comparison, and the company has struggled to sell them in China as well.
In India, however, while Windows phones are a bit of a niche, they are attracting a steady following and recent launches of affordable Lumia models -- which are expected to reach India early and get the Windows 10 upgrade -- will only help. Meanwhile, Xiaomi is scrambling to boost production to meet demand even within China, and can only afford periodic flash sales in markets such as India, where demand for its phones far exceeds supply.
So, it is not inconceivable that a Microsoft partnership could eventually lead to sales of Xiaomi’s popular mid-level Mi4 phones loaded with Windows 10, targeted at a more mature segment such as mid- to senior-level executives in India and other emerging markets with plenty of spending power, while the popular Android phones will continue to attract a more youthful audience.