Ex-Google Whiz Barra’s Influence Showing at Xiaomi

Ex-Google Whiz Barra’s Influence Showing at Xiaomi

Xiaomi said last week that it will begin selling a new tablet in China next month and plans to expand its sales reach to challenge Apple and Samsung.

Eight months after Xiaomi hired former Google (GOOG) Android chief Hugo Barra as its global vice president, the four-year old, $10 billion Chinese mobile device maker is taking a run at Apple (AAPL) and Samsung with a new 7.9-inch entry.

Xiaomi said last week it plans to begin selling its new tablet in China next month. The Android-based unit, manufactured by Foxconn and called the Mi Pad, is powered by a Nvidia (NVDA) processor and features 16GB of storage. It will be priced at about $240, the company said.

By comparison, Apple’s iPad Mini sells for $399 while Samsung’s Galaxy Note LTE is priced at about $329.

Barra, who was hired to build out Xiaomi’s product lineup and help it tap into markets outside mainland China, appears to be having an early influence on strategy. Xiaomi’s Mi Pad is part of a plan to expand both its product lineup and geographic reach into 10 new markets, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, India and Latin America. The company’s stated goal is to ship some 60 million handsets in 2014, Bloomberg reported.

Barra said Xiaomi initially will begin selling the Mi Pad in China in small amounts and then add Southeast Asia, India and Latin America to its sales efforts later this year.

“We spent four years working up to the point where we thought we had the right hardware design and software capability to build a world-class tablet,” Barra said. “We think we are there, finally.”

Xiaomi has about 100 applications and 400 games ready to go for the Mi Pad and expects to have 1,000 of each to offer by the end of this year.

Is the U.S. market in Barra’s future plans? The Xiaomi executive said in a Bloomberg interview that there’s no timetable to enter the U.S. market but it remains a target.

“The U.S. is obviously not in our plans for this year,” he said. “It’s an insanely competitive market and getting there requires working hard to be ready. We will work up to that.”

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