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Xiaomi rumored to enter tablet arena next month

By Li Qiaoyi (Global Times)

08:27, July 26, 2013

Beijing-based Xiaomi Technology Co, with its affordably priced Xiaomi phones, has grown to become something of a household name in the country nearly overnight. And now, the company may want to take another plunge by reaching into the tablet arena to provide a Chinese response to Apple's iPad, which has maintained the crown position in the market since inception of the gadget.

Recent fiery rumors suggest that Xiaomi is slated to reveal its first tablet device on August 16, when it introduces its next-generation Xiaomi smartphone.

Starting off as an Internet start up in the spring of 2010, Xiaomi has taken the mobile phone industry by storm since its announcement of the Xiaomi phone with its proprietary MIUI operating system in just two short years. And last year, when it launched its second-generation Xiaomi phone, Xiaomi fever heightened.

At a company meeting, Lei Jun, Xiaomi's founder and CEO, said his company sold 7.03 million Xiaomi phones in the first half of this year, generating revenues totaling 13.27 billion yuan ($2.16 billion), according to a July 16 report on, the website of the State-run People's Daily newspaper.

This was well above the company's performance for 2012, according to Lei, when Xiaomi sold 7.19 million phones over the entire course of the year, earning 12.6 billion yuan in revenues. And at the end of June this year, Xiaomi phone users across the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan had reached 14.22 million, said the report, citing company data.

Though it may still be a distant dream for the Chinese company to be a truly well-matched rival to Apple Inc, as an emerging force in the world's biggest market for mobile devices, Xiaomi definitely has access to some great opportunities.

A foray into the tablet battlefield is believed to bring the Chinese brand a bigger playing field. Likely to unveil a 7-inch tablet gadget running on a quad-core MediaTek processor along with a slew of new phone products on August 16, according to Taiwan-based Commercial Times, Xiaomi is rumored to sell the iPad-like gadget for just 999 yuan.

Apple's longtime partner Foxconn Technology Group is also said to be in talks with Xiaomi to manufacture Xiaomi tablets.

Xiaomi has been tight-lipped on the rumors, however, with its public relations manager, Liu Wei, failing to comment by press time when reached by the Global Times.

But Kevin Wang, director of China research at market research firm IHS iSuppli in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Wednesday that sources have said that "Xiaomi is working on the tablet, but it won't be released until the end of the year."

A tablet for thought

While the tablet announcement speculation has yet to be confirmed by Xiaomi, signs from the company have been pointing to a tablet venture since early last year.

On a February 12, 2012 Sina Weibo post, Xiaomi's Lei sought answers from customers, writing that "many Xiaomi fans hope we will launch a Mi Pad, what do you think?"

But instead of taking a similarly ambitious route that leads to its rising role in the phone world, Xiaomi has shown to be rather wary of a tablet expenditure.

"Alas, careful consideration must be taken before (jumping) to (Xiaomi) Pad manufacturing," Lei said on a September 14 Weibo post, sighing over an earlier statement made by Apple CEO Tim Cook, who had referred to his company's rising market share of iPads, somewhat cockily mocking the incompetence of tablet competitors.

Yet as Xiaomi approaches its second anniversary of the launch event for its first-generation Xiaomi phone, mounting speculation over the Xiaomi tablet indicates that the Chinese company might be nearing a tablet foray.

"Xiaomi has already established its brand position, and if the Xiaomi tablet comes to be as cost-effective as the company's phone lineup, boasting high specifications and a positive user experience, there may be hope of a successful tablet story for the company," Xiang Ligang, chief executive of telecom industry portal, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

But Xiang also noted the tablet scenario is largely different from the smartphone roadmap. While a number of unknown Chinese manufacturers have churned out a copious amount of white-box tablet models to flood the market, few Chinese brands have established their fame in the tablet arena. The trend bucks that of Chinese smartphone brands' rising prominence in the market, which poses growing challenges to market leaders such as Samsung and Apple.

Apple's iPad unbeatable?

It will be tough to crack the booming tablet market, which has been predominantly occupied by Apple ever since its visionary Steve Jobs took the wrapping off the first iPad in January 2010.

Vowing to take on the iPad with Surface tablets in June 2012, Microsoft Corp has hardly had an easy mission in materializing its goals in the market. The software giant relented on July 18, saying that it is taking a $900 million write-off "related to Surface RT inventory adjustments."

Industry portal's Xiang admits that "Apple's dominance in the market cannot be defied in the foreseeable future," especially given that Chinese makers have not been fully determined to make sizeable investments in the tablet business.

While growth momentum in the tablet market is considerable, the tablet segment in terms of overall shipments is not on par with that of smartphones, putting constraints on investors' interest in the tablet field, he added.

In fact, just on Tuesday, California-based technology giant Apple reported for its 2013 fiscal year's third quarter ending on June 29, according to which, sales of iPads declined to 14.6 million units from the previous year's 17 million.

But the good news is that global shipments of tablets are expected to rise to around 260 million units in 2013 from 160 million units in 2012, according to IHS iSuppli's Wang.

This is, however, dwarfed by smartphone shipments, which are expected to exponentially top tablet sales this year, he said. And Apple's June quarter's record 31.2 million iPhone sales, if anything, is an indication of that.

Still, potential in the tablet market is real, and as US-based market research firm Gartner Inc points out, Xiaomi may have an edge with price-points as cheap tablets are expected to continue challenging iPad sales.

"The share of basic tablets is expected to increase faster than anticipated, as sales of the iPad Mini already represented 60 percent of overall iOS tablet sales in the first quarter of 2013," said a recent statement from the company.

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Email|Print|Comments(Editor:ChenLidan、Ye Xin)

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