Did China Birth the Next Steve Jobs?
Somewhere in China, an unspecified number of people recently skipped work to purchase a new smartphone. The device was sleek, stylish and promised to deliver the next evolution in mobile communication. In a very short time, this product has turned its manufacturer into a multi-billion-dollar empire.
While this might sound like another story about the iPhone, the aforementioned device was not manufactured by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL). Meizu, the Chinese Apple clone that has been making headlines this year, was not behind the phone either.
In fact, the device in question comes from Xiaomi Technology, a Chinese startup. According to Reuters, the company has successfully created an "aura of exclusivity" that mirrors Apple and inspires consumers to eagerly buy each new device the company releases.
Unlike Apple and Meizu, Xiaomi Technology does not have a cluster of brick-and-mortar retail outlets. To purchase one of the company's devices, users must head to Xiaomi.com. Now that the current crop of smartphones has been sold, consumers must wait until Friday, December 14 for the next opportunity to make a purchase.
During a recent company presentation, Xiaomi Technology founder Lei Jun reportedly wore jeans and a black top, emulating the style of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. In an interview with Reuters, Jun said that he views the comparisons as a "compliment" that brings him "huge pressure."
"Xiaomi and Apple are two totally different companies," he said. "Xiaomi's based on the Internet. We are not doing the same thing as Apple."
Xiaomi Technology may be taking its own path with regard to distribution, but its products look very familiar. The company is also quite content to promote its success in a way that Apple could appreciate.
On October 30, Xiaomi Technology sold out of its latest smartphone in two minutes. While there were not many units to go around (the sale was only the first of a batch containing 50,000 devices), the achievement is not to be ignored. China is an emerging market for smartphone producers. By the end of the year, Xiaomi Technology expects to have sold seven million smartphones totaling $2 billion in revenue.
Lei Jun may not be the next Steve Jobs. His company may never achieve the level of international success that Apple has attained. Regardless, Xiaomi Technology has presented Chinese consumers with an interesting alternative that could slowly change the way smartphones are marketed and sold.
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