Xiaomi, new global player in the Smartphone Market?

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Xiaomi’s smartphones are currently sold only in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, but its hire of former Google VP Hugo Barra as Vice President of Xiaomi Global is a clear signal that the three-year-old company’s plans to break into international markets soon.

Xiaomi is staffed by former employees of Microsoft, Motorola and (of course) Google. Barra joins former colleague Lin Bin, who was previously the Vice President of Google China’s Engineering Research Institute and Engineering Director of Google before co-founding Xiaomi as its President.

Xiaomi’s plan is to sell high-end smartphones at or slightly beyond the cost of materials and eventually monetize through software and services. Its handsets currently range from 799 RMB (about $130) to 1499 RMB ($245).

Xiaomi Tech was founded just three years ago, but it already has a valuation of $10 billion after completing its latest round of fundraising earlier this month. To put that into context, Xiaomi is now on par with Lenovo’s market value of $10 billion and almost twice BlackBerry’s current market valuation of $5.5 billion.

The company only started selling smartphones in October 2011, but it recently raised its sales target for 2013 to 20 million smartphones, up from its previous 15 million goal.

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