November 15, 2014 by ...
Is Xiaomi diversifying its privacy portfolio before trying to enter the US market?
Is Xiaomi knocking off HTC in hopes that the legal IP battles will less fierce with them than Apple?
Is Xiaomi trying to divide and conquer the plaintiff base its its not-to-distant future piracy lawsuits?
To answer all of these, please read on…
This fine piece of kit is Xiaomi’s next big thing. It is a spy shot of the chassis for Lei Jun’s up and coming top of the line model.
Pic from here
Which we can find by clicking on this highlighted text here
Interestingly enough, the two look pretty similar. No, not in that, ‘Hey that phone kinda’ reminds me of somthing,’ sort of way. But more like a ‘Holy shit? Did Xiaomi just knockoff the HTC One?’ Kind of way.
Perhaps it is just me, but when I first saw this
that is what I thought.
I really love the design of the HTC unit, so the new Xiaomi struck home. It hit me so hard that I began to think. I was wondering why Xiaomi would change tack. Aping Apple has been its bread and butter since day one. In fact, Lei Jun said that ‘One day Steve Jobs has to die‘ and Xiaomi would presumably carry on the torch.
With that baseline playing in my psyche, I again asked mayself, ‘WTF?’
Lawsuits IPO’s and piracy
And then it hit me. Xiaomi has been on a tear. They just bankrolled over $1 billion in ‘betting on the cum ‘ funds and have announced that they would like to IPO, in the US of all places. If they want to do this, however, they must clean up their act, or at least make it appear to be so. After all, that is what Alibaba did. No, they did not clean up their act, pirated products are still a dime a dozen on their Chinese website, but their international version is politically correct. ‘No piracy here folks, just move along.’
For Xiaomi to cash in, they have to do the same. So far the four year old company Has hidden their ‘not so subtle‘ borrowing, behind China’s ‘not too good‘ anti-piracy laws, which prove if nothing else, that crime does pay. Once again, in all probability, they cannot run that same game by western courts.
Apple has shown their tenacity at protecting IP and using litigation to do so. Such a thing is hyper costly, especially in the US, where Apple is heavily lawyered up and Xiaomi is not. Of course when asked about this, Xiaomi says they set aside a war chest and will fight to protect their IP ‘claims’ but even they have got to be cringing. Hugo Barra’s empty drivel aside, it would be hard to imagine that Xiaomi would skate free in US courts.
In order to mitigate that risk, Xiaomi has given Apple-frauding a break and found a new model/victim.
So why copy at all?
You may be asking why Xiaomi would knockoff another company, after all, theft is theft, right?
Well, yes and no.
It is one thing to rip off Apple and then fight them on their home turf. As I said, Apple has lawyers on staff who get paid whether they spend time in court rooms or drink coffee. Xiaomi, however, does not. In addition, Apple has a corporate lifetime playing the lawsuit game. Xiaomi, once again, does not.
HTC, on the other hand, is a Taiwanese company. Presumably they would go after Xiaomi but they don’t have Apple’s weight. In addition, Taiwan, as most Chinese will tell you, is a ‘renegade province which really belongs to China and if anyone tries to emancipate it they will get nukedsort of way. Setting aside nuclear holocaust, the significance of this is that China, as in the ‘mainland’, holds sway over Taiwan. HTC could fight, but it would not be unlike Beijing to send them a subtle message. If you do not believe me, then just ask Apple. Or better yet do a Google search on the communist party hacking Apple ICloudud just after the new Iphones had been released.
Simply put, HTC has much less leverage and thus a better victim.
But why doesn’t Xiaomi just design their own?
Now you may be scratching your head with a pencil you’ve not used in years and scowling at the screen, ‘But why doesn’t Xiaomi just design their own kit?’ You ask.
Well, if you ask this, I would quit talking to you, or writing, as it were. Product design is something akin to art, and well rewarded. Look at how much Dysert gets for a vaccum. This type of perfection does not come cheaply nor is it fast. Even stodgy car companies take years to produce plain vanilla boxes, and you really think cell phone designers just sketch out the next big thing? Of course not. It takes time, energy and skill. These are design elements which Xiaomi has eluded thus far. You don’t go from aping mimicking an actor to being one in a day, you know?
This has been the bane of Xiaomi and China as well. Quick, think about the most beautiful [fill in any product here] you ever saw. Was the company that made it Chinese? I thought not.
Due to reasons too numerous to count, China as a country is slow on the innovation and design uptake. Xiaomi is Chinese and thus a victim of this. With 99.9% local hires, it is going to be difficult to find that design guru. Of course they can try to buy one, but my contacts tell me that Lei Jun, really really really likes to hire local. This does nothing to help his cause.
And the verdict is?
Which leads us to the conclusion that Xiaomi is in dire need of staving off an IP theft scandal. The last thing they want is to be humiliated in US courts for
Ripping off the American icon -Apple.
Absent a sudden attack of the innovation gene, Xiaomi must stick to their knitting and ‘borrow’ from the best. HTC makes some hot looking phones and due to its ‘country/province’ of origin, it is a likely punching bag. It lacks Apple sized clout amd experience and fewer Americans will be pissed about Xiaomi ripping them off.
All of this will play well on the NASDAQ and Xiaomi can laugh their way to the bank. If you don’t believe me, then just ask Alibaba.