Chinese internet company Xiaomi says it is highlighting its “global ambitions” by launching its Android-based 4K set-top box in the U.S. market as it seeks to augment stuttering smartphone sales with its ecosystem of smart-home devices.
At Google’s annual developer conference near the search giant’s Mountain View, California, headquarters on Wednesday, Xiaomi said it would be launching the Mi Box in the U.S. market “soon,” though a specific release date or price have not been announced. Xiaomi currently sells a small subset of its products (including power banks, fitness trackers and headphones) through its online Mi store in the U.S., but the smartphones the company is best known for remain unavailable in all but a handful of countries in Asia and South America.
Xiaomi has been selling set-top boxes in China for some time, but the Mi Box is the first that uses Android TV software, an indication of a closer relationship with Google.
Xiaomi has already sold 10 million of its set-top boxes in China, but says launching the Mi Box in the U.S. is part of a bigger effort to extend its reach beyond its home country. The Mi Box supports 4K video and comes with a Bluetooth remote, which features voice search. The device will compete in an increasingly crowded market where Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV lead the market.
Xiaomi’s head of global development, Hugo Barra, who previously headed up Android development at the search giant, was present on Wednesday to hear Clay Bavor, Google’s head of VR, announce that Xiaomi would be among the first wave of manufacturers to develop smartphones to work with Google’s new Daydream virtual reality platform.
Onstage, Google CEO Sundar Pichai indicated that China was an important market for the company at the outset of his keynote address on Wednesday, when he said that over 1 million people were tuning in to a live stream of the event in China alone. Google is reportedly seeking to re-enter the Chinese market this year with a specific version of its Play Store, five years after it pulled out of the market due to an unwillingness to adhere to censorship of its search results.