Xiaomi’s explosive growth has relied heavily on Android so far, but the company seems to be open to alternatives. Over the following months, “select Xiaomi Mi 4 power users” will be given the opportunity to test the new Windows 10 and provide feedback to Microsoft.
Microsoft announced the arrival of Windows 10 (for PCs, tablets, and smartphones) in a blog post published yesterday. The announcement includes a section dedicated to partnerships with Chinese companies, including Lenovo, Tencent, Qihu 360, and… Xiaomi. The inclusion of the Mi company is surprising, given that Xiaomi has never expressed interest in Microsoft before.
In a statement to TechCrunch, Microsoft alluded that this test program is just the beginning of stronger ties with Xiaomi, which is apparently “embracing” Windows 10.
As part of the Windows Insider Program, Microsoft will partner with Xiaomi to offer Windows 10 free downloads to a select group of Xiaomi Mi4 users. Xiaomi Mi4 users will get the ability to flash their phones with the new Windows 10 OS and provide feedback to Xiaomi and Microsoft on their experience. This partnership will allow Xiaomi and Microsoft to get direct user feedback and continue to improve the experience for China. Microsoft is thrilled to see Xiaomi embracing Windows 10 and offering this great value to their customers. We’re excited to see the feedback we receive from this audience.Xiaomi is a leading phone manufacturer in China undergoing significant global expansion. We are excited to partner with them in China and jointly gather feedback from Chinese users on their experience with Windows 10 to jointly collaborate on product and services development for the platform.Availability will be announced in the months to come.
For its part, Xiaomi was careful to emphasize that it’s not jumping in bed with Microsoft just yet. “This is an experimental program entirely led by Microsoft, and we are happy that Mi fans with Mi 4 devices in China will be able to participate and provide feedback,” the company told The Next Web.
Some clarification comes from the wildly popular Mi forums. According to this post from moderator Bughinirari, Xiaomi will not manufacture phones with Windows 10, but it will allow Microsoft to provide a Windows 10 ROM for the Mi 4, along with support for users who decide to switch to Windows. It looks like Windows 10 will become a second, semi-official operating system for the Mi 4, with Microsoft handling support.
This is an interesting development, to say the least, though we probably shouldn’t be surprised that Xiaomi is willing to experiment. After all, MIUI OS has little to do with Google, at least in China, where Google’s services aren’t available (for now). With that said, Xiaomi is shipping with the Play Store in other countries and the company’s Hugo Barra (a former Googler himself) was emphatic about Xiaomi’s respect for Google.
It’s possible (and likely, given Microsoft’s tiny footprint in mobile) that Xiaomi is simply going along with this for the sake of experimentation. Also, Microsoft has been known to offer financial incentives to partners, and that may be a factor at play here. After all, Xiaomi’s is doing relatively little money, even if it’s a top five smartphone company by shipments.
This could also be the start of something bigger, though even if Xiaomi ends up shipping Windows devices, Android will probably remain its workhorse for the foreseeable future.