Xiaomi are now the world’s third largest smartphone maker and TechCrunch are reporting that the company has completed a significant international hire in the form of Donovan Sung, Spotify’s lead US product manager, to run its international product development team from Beijing. We’ve learned of this development despite both companies being quiet about the move, because Donovan announced the news via Facebook! This is a big win for Xiaomi (and a loss for Spotify). Donovan has been involved with Spotify’s design, look and feel, most critically the discovery and recommendation features. Donovan also managed product partnerships and development opportunities, particularly in overseas markets. He’s also worked for Microsoft, Google and YouTube and worked with Hugo Barra, Xiaomi’s Vice President of International and formerly of Google. Donovan Sung is also bilingual, which is useful as many of Xiaomi’s executive team are not fluent in English.
For a long time, Xiaomi were considered to be one of the emerging smartphone powers but have gone from zero to number three in just four years. We’ve recently reviewed the Xiaomi Mi4 and found it to be a beautifully designed, well specificied top-tier device with stellar battery life. MIUI has also been updated to version 6, bringing with it a lot of additional customizations including a new theming engine. Xiaomi’s push into overseas markets has been supported by their current portfolio but the business is also making changes to how they operate their services, including relocating some of their data servers overseas.
One of the barriers for a more widespread adoption of Xiaomi appears to be concerns over privacy and security, with several reports that the Chinese manufacturer is providing the Chinese government with access to user data. Some of this may be scaremongering, some of it may be genuine: Xiaomi have moved to reassure users that their data is secure. They’ve stated that they do not collect any information without user permission and have extremely strict access controls. It’s impossible to know if these concerns have held back Xiaomi, I suspect not as the manufacturer is still relatively unknown in Western markets. The recent hire of Donovan Sung should help matters.