Clean­ing up

Xiaomi Corp un­veils a smart vac­uum cleaner

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By MASI masi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Xiaomi Corp un­veiled a smart vac­uum cleaner on Wed­nes­day, in an­other move to seek new growth en­gines as the Chi­nese smart­phone ven­dor wres­tles with tum­bling phone ship­ments and mount­ing com­pe­ti­tion.

Priced at 1,699 yuan ($254), the smart vac­uum cleaner is the lat­est ev­i­dence that Xiaomi is stick­ing to its af­ford­abil­ity strat­egy for all of its con­sumer elec­tron­ics prod­ucts, al­though an­a­lysts said their ris­ing in­comes were mak­ing Chi­nese con­sumers in­creas­ingly less price-con­scious.

Equipped with 12 sen­sors and a cen­tral pro­cess­ing unit, the ma­chine can au­to­mat­i­cally mea­sure the size of rooms and map the best routes to do clean­ing. It is po­si­tioned to help Xiaomi com­pete with for­eign com­pa­nies such as iRobot Corp whose sim­i­lar prod­uct Roomba 880 is priced at roughly $500.

Liu De, co-founder and vice-pres­i­dent of Xiaomi, said the home clean­ing prod­uct was de­signed to make do­ing house­work in­ter­est­ing and cool. It is tar­get­ing whitecol­lar work­ers and mid­dle­class fam­i­lies.

The new prod­uct is also part ofXiaomi’s broad plan to emerge as theMuji in China's tech sec­tor. Muji is a Ja­panese re­tail com­pany that sells a wide va­ri­ety of house­hold and con­sumer goods.

In re­cent years, Xiaomi has in­vested in more than 50 smart hard­ware man­u­fac­tur­ers, in a bid to build an ecosys­tem where all of its prod­ucts can be con­nected to the in­ter­net. So far, the com­pany has al­ready launched prod­ucts such as drones, air pu­ri­fiers and rice cook­ers.

James Yan, a Beijing-based an­a­lyst at Coun­ter­pointTech­nol­o­gyMar­ket Re­search, said Xiaomi’s rapid ex­pan­sion into smart-home equip­ment can’t off­set the group’s de­clin­ing rev­enue in the short term.

In the sec­ond quar­ter of the cur­rent year Xiaomi saw smart­phone ship­ments tum­ble 38 per­cent in China, drag­gin­git­downto the fourth spot, far be­hind do­mes­tic ri­vals Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co Ltd and Oppo Elec­tron­ics Corp.

“Xiaomi de­rives most of its rev­enue from smart­phones. The mar­ket for drones, vir­tual re­al­ity de­vices and other smart-home equip­ments is still in the in­fant stage and can­not help Xiaomi boost its rev­enue too much,” Yan said.

But ex­perts said the de­ci­sion to ex­pand into the ser­vice ro­bot mar­ket is right, given the surg­ing de­mand in China which is deal­ing with an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and ris­ing la­bor costs. China said in April it planned to sell more than 30 bil­lion yuan ($4.6 bil­lion) worth of ser­vice ro­bots by 2020.

FENG YONGBIN /CHINA DAILY

Vice-Pres­i­dent of Xiaomi Corp Liu De at the re­lease of the com­pany’s smart vac­uum cleaner on Wed­nes­day in Beijing.

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