Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Last week, Xiaomi officially launched its Mi Box in the US. Mi Box is a streaming device based on Google's smart TV platform, Android TV. Xiaomi first announced plans to bring its device to the US at Google's annual I/O developer conference earlier in 2016. Mi Box retails for $69 and offers good value for money given its specifications, which include support for 4K playback and HDR video and voice-powered search through a remote control.
By using Android TV, Mi Box allows consumers to access media from a wide range of services including YouTube, Hulu Plus and Spotify. The device is also compatible with hundreds of gaming and utility apps as well as with Google's Chromecast and voice search.
Mi Box is Xiaomi's start in the US and early market noise indicates that it has found an eager audience, but of course, the company's ambitions go beyond the market for low-cost digital media devices. Now comes the hard part.
Xiaomi became a top-five global player in less than five years of existence, mostly as a result of keen timing in the Chinese market, clever viral marketing and efficient logistics through its signature flash sales model. But many of Xiaomi's rivals were quick to adapt and were able to mimic and adjust, breaking down Xiaomi's strategy.
In order to regain momentum, Xiaomi hopes that its Android TV box will be a stepping stone into the US market for Android smartphones as well as other members of its eclectic portfolio of products including tablets, fitness bands, air purifiers and self-balancing scooters. But this won't be easy.
CCS Insight believes that the launch of the Mi Box will certainly boost Xiaomi's brand in the US. With more than 100 million customers per week, Walmart provides the company with great market exposure, which could potentially accelerate into bigger things. However, the US smartphone market has its unique challenges with regards to channels and patents.
There's certainly some excitement about the fact that Xiaomi is now getting some circulation in the US, but it's uncertain how this will port over to its smartphone portfolio.