At the outset, Xiaomi feels like the ideal brand to release a Chromebook; the Chinese manufacturer is associated with value, and Chromebooks are all about delivering great value on a budget. If you think about it, a Chromebook would be a perfect addition to Xiaomi's growing portfolio of products.
It's not like Xiaomi is a stranger to the notebook business. Xiaomi has rolled out products in the Mi Notebook series for four years now, and while these products were limited to the Chinese market, Xiaomi introduced the category earlier this year in India with the Mi NoteBook Horizon Edition.
So, why not a Chromebook? I chatted with Xiaomi India's Chief Business Offer Raghu Reddy to understand why the brand hasn't released a Chromebook yet. Reddy is in charge of Xiaomi's product portfolio and has final say in new growth areas and product categories, making him the ideal person to talk to about Xiaomi's Chromebook plans.
Reddy says Xiaomi hasn't released a Chromebook because of the inherent challenges in making inroads into the category. The Chromebook segment leans heavily on business-to-business (B2B) sales; while there are plenty of Chromebooks on sale in markets like the U.S., a decent chunk of purchases are made by school districts or organizations that buy Chromebooks en masse. From Reddy:
We are pretty young in the notebook business — we sell our notebooks in just China and India for now. We're still learning the nuances of this particular category, so we'll first have to get a better handle on how to run the notebook business and then we'll start making some of those calls to venture into new categories.
The best Chromebooks are filled with models from manufacturers that have an established presence in the enterprise segment. As Xiaomi is still primarily a business-to-consumer (B2C) brand that sells directly to customers, it doesn't see a lot of value in entering the Chromebook segment at this point in time:
Xiaomi is a business-to-consumer (B2C) company; our strength lies in being able to reach out to customers directly and offer good value. For now, our aim is to strengthen our consumer business before making a play for the enterprise. Our focus has always been to take it segment by segment; solidify growth in one category before thinking about the next phase of growth.
While Reddy didn't rule out Xiaomi getting into the Chromebook segment, it's not in the manufacturer's immediate plans. For now, Xiaomi is focused on building market share for its Windows-based notebooks, so we're still a few years out from seeing a Xiaomi-branded Chromebook.
Reddy mentioned that the addressable userbase is a key consideration when deciding to venture into new product categories, and Chromebooks haven't moved the needle enough in markets where Xiaomi has a strong presence. You obviously won't find Chromebooks in China — where Google services are banned — and the devices failed to gain any momentum whatsoever in India over the last decade.
But with Xiaomi focusing on a connected ecosystem as being a key differentiator for the brand. While Chromebooks aren't a focus for the manufacturer right now, that may change in a few years as Xiaomi's notebook business gains momentum.
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