So the end of last week was an interesting time. Around this time last Friday it suddenly became clear that select Walmart stores were suddenly selling the Xiaomi Mi Box. It was literally on the shelf and available to buy. It is unclear how widespread the availability of the Mi Box was (i.e. whether it was all Walmart stores or just some) but it seems to have been a situation which was quickly rectified with the Mi Boxes seemingly leaving store shelves as quickly as they hit them.
Of course, by then it was certainly way too late and the damage had been done. Damage being the price mystery had been let out of the bag. So while it is still not certain that $69 will be the actual price of the Mi Box, after the Walmart fiasco, it would seems as though $69 is the price - and what a price that is.
Over the last few weeks and months many have wondered and debated over what the price of the MI Box will be. After most of the details on what is on offer with the Mi Box had been announced by Xiaomi (coupled with the complete market dominance of the NVIDIA SHIELD), it did seem to be the case that price was going to be the make-or-break aspect for Xiaomi with the Mi Box. Pricing the device anywhere north of $100 (and with every $1 that the price gets closer to the SHIELD price), the less chance the Mi Box would have of establishing its presence. Therefore, many did feel that $99 was the top end price the Mi Box could be for it to be able to make an impacting difference. By the same token, anything south of that $100 marker, the better.
That said, it probably stands to reason that few thought the price would actually be as low as $69. After all, not only is this an Android TV box, but it is one which comes packing some fairly noteworthy specs and features including 4K support, HDR support, Dolby Digital and Atmos support, and more. So while the Nexus Player in its final months struggled to sell (and even at times dropped to as low as $25), the Mi Box is not the Nexus Player. By all measures, it is a vast step up from the Nexus Player and yet that $69 price means its starting price is already significantly less than what the Nexus Player originally launched for.
Which also means, we now have a serious and viable Android TV competitor device. While the NVIDIA SHIELD is by far and away the flagship Android TV device and the one that comes with all the bells and whistles, it is a pricey device overall. Asking someone to hand over close to $200 (more with the - needed - accessories) is a hard ask for a platform that the buyer is yet to be familiar with. $69 on the other hand, is almost a throwaway amount for an electronics product. It literally falls into the 'impulse purchase' category and means it will never be a comparable product to the SHIELD. The Mi Box will be aimed at a different market and to those who do not want to spend SHIELD-like money on an Android TV device and more importantly, those who are largely unaware of Android TV. Which is probably the most important takeaway here as the Mi Box now looks certain to be a gateway product. One which opens the door to Android TV without the consumer having to spend that much to test out the platform and that is a very big bonus for the industry as a whole. Android TV needs greater levels of adoption and the Mi Box could be the product to do just that. Having a 4K-ready Android TV box priced at $69 is not only good for Xiaomi, but is also good for the market as a whole.