Mi Box hindered in China, to prosper in the US?

Xiaomi announced on Thursday at the Google I/O 2016 event that it is working with Google on a 4K set-top box to run on Android TV. The exact release date and price is yet to be published. The new Mi Box will be shipped to the US, and will be different to those that are available in China.

The coming Mi Box supports 4K UHD content and HDR standards. It has a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU, a Mali 450 GPU, 2GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage. Other than expanding storage via USB port, users can enjoy DTS Surround Sound and a Bluetooth remote with in-built voice recognition.

While the Mi Box in mainland China is based on Xiaomi’s MIUI platform, the version to be sold in the US will connect to content providers including YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and Pandora. Games on Google Play will also be available.

Analysts say that Xiaomi’s move to the U.S. market is also related to the  growing challenges of the domestic Chinese market.  

In late 2012, Xiaomi delayed its launch of the TV set-top box when it was investigated by China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) over licensing issues and content.  

This problem with regulators was overcome in 2013. However, the resolution did not last long. Last July, SARFT published more severe measures to crack down on internet TV devices’ video downloads, demanding stricter censorship of content. Seven private online TV providers in China were told to  remove unsanctioned content within seven days, and were warned that their licenses would be revoked if they did not comply. In April last year, the Audio-Video Programme License of Sina.com was revoked for similar reasons.

However, the US market already has Apple TV, Fire TV, Nexus TV,and others, all of which all have rich content on offer. To build market share, Xiaomi will have to distinguish itself with some sort of unique selling point aside from merely its (non-exclusive) cooperation with the systems such as Android and iOS.

Additionally, Xiaomi is not the first Chinese company in this sector to explore the U.S. market. Chinese conglomerate LeEco also introduced its set-top box to the US last year.

The overall size of the US market is huge, but in marching into this competitive market, it could be like climbing a mountain without a rope: glory if the venture succeeds, but high levels of risk and difficulty along the way.

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

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