Could Xiaomi start the Android 2-in-1 ball rolling?

If you follow Xiaomi, you know the company has diversified from being a one trick pony with a smartphone to creating a whole host of tech accessories, TV’s and gadgets, including a new scooter they developed with Segway. Xiaomi’s smartphone business has done very well in China but there is increased competition from Apple, Lenovo, and Huawei and the company has seen the need to expand their presence by creating new devices and services to broaden their overall tech portfolio.

But the one area the PC guys were watching closely was Xaiomi’s interest in moving up the tech chain, perhaps trying to compete with them in PCs. PC manufacturers don’t have to wonder about Xiaomi’s intentions now. Word has leaked this Chinese company is getting ready to bring out their “Surface” killer, or a full 2-in-1 design. It is unclear at this point whether it will run Android or Windows, but I assume we will find out before too long.

If you have read my columns here recently, you know I have suggested the market could be ripe for an Android 2-in-1 or even an Android laptop. I know of at least two Android laptops in the works and the folks at JIDE in China are doing their own 2-in-1 they plan to license to vendors later this year.

While I don’t see what Xiaomi is doing with their 2-in-1 necessarily impacting the traditional PC vendors anytime soon, you can bet they will be watching  three key things closely. First, they will watch what the uptake will be for an Android 2-in-1 or laptop (if indeed it does run Android). This will be on the heels of Apple’s intro of the iPad Pro, which I have stated in numerous columns will be an important product with which Apple starts taking iOS into a broader business and enterprise market. If this is successful, I could see it driving an interest in Android in similar form factors.

The second thing they will be interested in is if the channel has interest. Today, Android smartphones are well accepted in most channels and Android tablets have seen serious growth through traditional retail as well. However, an Android 2-in-1 or laptop has not been tested in the channel and these devices will require sales and aftermarket support the channel would need training on to offer them effectively. They could most likely go through VAR’s and specialty retailers at first but, if there is SMB interest, then mainstream channels would be needed to get them into these smaller markets.

Third, if there is an interest in an Android 2-in-1 or laptop in enterprise, if and when should a traditional PC company do one of their own? Today, the PC vendors are still focused on Windows, but with Microsoft doing 2-in-1s and laptops of their own now and treading on their hallowed ground, their loyalty to Microsoft is weakened and they would be more open to doing something more aggressive with Android on hardware.

There is one last thing that would need to happen if an Android 2-in-1 or laptop is to have any chance of success. It needs Google’s blessing. The Jide version from China appears to have Google backing and, if so, then Google seems to be at least marginally behind this idea. Although they are still pushing Chrome to the desktop and laptops, I do think they see the future of Android in 2-in-1s and laptops could be important as they would tap into 1.5 million apps and could be used to expand Android’s presence to business audiences in the same way Apple plans to use the iPad Pros with iOS and its 1.5 millions apps for the same reason.

It seems at first Xiaomi plans to sell an Android 2-in-1 in China but I would not be surprised if they decide to make their 2-in-1 the first hardware they bring into the US market — one they have had their eyes on for some time. I think it is too early to tell if Android in these new form factors could be successful but I do see Xiaomi’s move into getting the ball rolling towards Android in these new personal computing designs.

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Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

3 thoughts on “Could Xiaomi start the Android 2-in-1 ball rolling?”

  1. Here you are advocating for Xiaomi to create an Android 2-in-1. However, I’m sure that it is also feasible for Xiaomi to create a Windows 10 2-in-1. It would compete more directly with Microsoft Surface of course, and Xiaomi would position its product as a more affordable version of the hottest product on the market. This, I understand, is exactly how Xiaomi has positioned itself against the iPhone; a high-performance, affordable look-alike of the best and most expensive product that its customer segment cannot afford, but aspires for.

    What if Xiaomi or any other Chinese manufacturer introduces a Surface clone at $600 for example? What if they bundle software that better integrates Windows 10 into their service ecosystem?

    I tend to think that this is the more pragmatic approach for Xiaomi.

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