Android VP Barra Exits For Chinese Smartphone Maker

Hugo Barra leaves Google's Android team to join Xiaomi, a three-year old company valued at about $10 billion that expects to sell 20 million devices this year.
9 Android Apps To Improve Security, Privacy
9 Android Apps To Improve Security, Privacy
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Hugo Barra confirmed that he has left Google and will soon start a new position at Xiaomi, a Chinese maker of Android smartphones. Barra has been with Google since 2008 and with the Android team since 2010. He was most recently visible as the main presenter at Google's debut of the Nexus 7 tablet in July.

"I have decided to start a new career chapter," wrote Barra on his personal Google+ page. "In a few weeks, I'll be joining the Xiaomi team in China to help them expand their incredible product portfolio and business globally -- as Vice President, Xiaomi Global. I'm really looking forward to this new challenge, and am particularly excited about the opportunity to continue to help drive the Android ecosystem."

The news, which was first reported by AllThingsD, followed closely reports about a split between Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki. The reports suggest that Brin is now seeing another Google employee who was previously seeing Barra. The third Google employee has not been named. Barra tendered his resignation before the drama involving Brin unfolded.

[ Google's Internet-connected glasses concern security experts. Read more: Hack My Google Glass: Security's Next Big Worry? ]

Barra's departure from Google, and, more importantly, from the Android team, is coming just months after long-time Android leader Andy Rubin stepped down. Rubin left the Android team to pursue other projects within Google, but he has yet to specify what those projects are. When Rubin's role changed, Google made Sundar Pichai the head of its Android and Chrome teams. Barra played a large role on the Android team, but Pichai is still the one in charge and overseeing the platform's development and forward momentum. It's unclear if or how Barra's departure will affect Android.

As for Xiaomi, Barra's new home, the company is just three years old and sells devices in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is valued at about $10 billion and is targeting 2013 device sales of 20 million units. To put that in perspective, BlackBerry is currently valued at about $5.5 billion.

According to TechCrunch, Xiaomi's Mi 2S, a smartphone released in April, was the number-one smartphone in China during the spring months. It outsold the Galaxy S4, which was released at about the same time. Xiaomi holds about 2.5% of the Chinese phone market, trailing Apple's 4.6% and Samsung's 18.2%.

Xiaomi has assembled a leadership team from former Microsoft, Motorola and now Google employees. The company has high aspirations, at least for its home market. Barra's "global" role there is yet undefined.