Up until recently, Hugo Barra was one of the most visible faces behind Google Android. As vice president of Android Product Management, Barra was a regular at Google’s press and developer events, often showing off new devices and features.
Now he’s showing off a new job: Barra is leaving Google after more than 5 years with the company. He’s moving to Xiaomi, where he’ll be responsible for growing the Chinese device maker’s international business.
Xiaomi is only a few years old, but it’s already one of the most important tech companies in China, with an estimated value of $10 billion. It’s staffed partially by former employees of Microsoft, Google, and Motorola, and it makes some of the most popular smartphones in China.
The company’s phones have a reputation as high performance, high quality devices at affordable prices. While they run Google Android software, Xiaomi’s smartphones use the MIUI interface which is a skin that makes Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense look small tweaks to Google’s software.
MIUI is a thorough overhaul of the Android user interface, and while it’s often compared to Apple’s iOS, it’s more like a suite of apps and design elements made to make Android look like a cross between iOS and, well, Android.
Right now Xiaomi’s phones are only sold in and around China and Taiwan. But the hiring of Barra is a pretty clear signal that the company plans to expand beyond the borders of those countries.