An Android head at Google is making his way out of the company and diving into new opportunities with Chinese phone maker Xiaomi.
Hugo Barra, vice president of product management for Android, is leaving Google to become vice president of Xiaomi Global. Barra joined Google in 2008 as group product manager and made his way up in the Android ranks.
Barra has been an important part of Android, and a public figure as well. He unveiled the Nexus 7 tablet in San Francisco, for instance.
“We wish Hugo Barra the best,” Google said in a statement. “We’ll miss him at Google and we’re excited that he is staying within the Android ecosystem.”
Aside from new opportunities, it isn’t clear why Barra has chosen to go with Xiaomi. Some reports noted that a recent break-up with a fellow Google employee (who is now dating Google co-founder Sergey Brin) added to Barra’s decision, but sources close to the situation say Barra made his decision to leave before that relationship fizzled.
Barra’s resignation from the Android team is pretty important, especially after Android creator Andy Rubin left the Android division earlier this year. It leaves the future of Android unknown, and the direction Google will take the OS is unclear.
While Android has a healthy amount of market share, having its creator and a top executive bail on it it effect the operating system’s mobile battle against the likes of Apple.
Moving to Xiaomi isn’t a bad move on Barra’s part. The phone maker recently bumped Apple out of the top spot for market share in China.
For the second quarter, Apple was ranked seventh in China’s list of smartphone vendors with only 5 percent.
While Xiaomi was also at 5 percent, its smartphone shipments narrowly surpassed Apple’s — which is pretty significant for a company that only started shipping smartphones two years ago.
Xiaomi phones are only sold in China and Taiwan. However, they offer high-end smartphones with great specs and low prices. For instance, Xiaomi started selling a flagship phone with the Android operating system, a quad-core 1.7GHz processor from Qualcomm, a 4.3-inch 720p screen, and a 13-megapixel camera for 1699 yuan ($275 USD) without a contract.
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