Ex-Googler Hugo Barra gushes over Chinese Xiaomi's fanboys

Barra praised the smartphone manufacturer's user-focused design at a recent event in San Francisco

Xiaomi's Hugo Barra and Lei Jun sit down with AllThingsD's Kara Swisher at the GMIC conference in San Francisco on Oct. 22, 2013.

Xiaomi's Hugo Barra and Lei Jun sit down with AllThingsD's Kara Swisher at the GMIC conference in San Francisco on Oct. 22, 2013.

Ex-Googler Hugo Barra has a thing for the fans -- but not Google's.

While the Internet data behemoth may strive to "do no evil," "we do everything for the 'Mi fens,'" Barra said Tuesday, speaking of Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi's loyal users. Mi fen is shorthand for "Xiaomi fan," and also means "rice flower."

"They come first, they're our priority," he said, speaking during the GMIC mobile Internet conference in San Francisco.

At the event, Barra delivered candid remarks in one of his first public appearances since news broke of his departure as Google's high-ranking vice president of Android. Now he's VP for Xiaomi Global, and is responsible for leading the Chinese company's international expansion efforts.

In Barra's comments, Google seemed to be a thing of the past, and he spoke like one of the Xiaomi crew. So what's Xiaomi got that Google doesn't? A mentality that strongly incorporates user feedback throughout the product development process, he said.

"No one takes user feedback anywhere near as seriously as Xiaomi does," Barra said. "A significant number of product features come from user suggestions," he said.

Xiaomi has a different way of marketing its products. Instead of shipping them out on a massive scale like Apple would for the next iPhone or iPad, Xiaomi has a more iterative process, maybe making only 1,000 phones available at a time. The company does this so it can gather precious feedback from users each step of the way, Barra said, and quickly incorporate their reactions into the next build, maybe as soon as a week later.

Xiaomi, and now Barra, like to call the process "design as you build." It's a concept that already plays out in software development, but not as much in hardware.

"It's a beautiful cycle that Silicon Valley has become known for," Barra said, but what Xiaomi has created is a company doing that for hardware.

Barra said he had been eyeing Xiaomi since its inception three years ago, when asked by AllThingsD's Kara Swisher about why he left Google, during an on-stage chat at GMIC.

Since his departure questions have swirled over the real reasons why he left, partly because it happened amid reports of a love triangle involving Google co-founder Sergey Brin and a female Google employee.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicessmartphonesMobile OSesAndroidmobileinternetsearch enginesXiaomimobile applicationsAndroid OSconsumer electronicsGoogle

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?