Chinese consumer electronics upstart Xiaomi is best known for making a serious dent into the phone sales of competitors like Samsung in its home country. But for its U.S. expansion, Xiaomi decided to go after a different market: Xiaomi’s new Mi Box aims to squarely compete with streaming devices from Roku and Amazon as well as Apple’s Apple TV.
The Mi Box, which got officially introduced at Google’s I/O developer conference in Mountain View this week, is a media streamer based on Google’s Android TV platform. The device is capable of playing 4K video on compatible TV sets, and also supports high-dynamic range content. It comes with a Bluetooth remote with voice input, and consumers will be able to buy a game pad as a remote control as well.
Xiaomi will launch the device in the U.S. first, but the company’s global VR Hugo Barra told Variety that it is looking to launch it in other markets as well. Given that it is running Google’s services, Xiaomi won’t be able to sell this device in China, but Barra said that it may eventually bring it to India and other international markets.
Price and availability of the device haven’t been announced yet, and it’s also unclear how exactly Xiaomi wants to compete with the likes of Roku and Apple TV. Barra didn’t want to share too many details, but said that the company is going to target “a slice of the market that is not well served.”
Google first announced Android TV two years ago, and has made some inroads in striking partnerships with TV manufacturers to adopt it as their smart TV platform of choice. Sony and Sharp have been selling Android TVs since 2015, and this week, Google announced new partnerships with RCA, Beko, Grundig and Vestel.
The company arguably has had less luck with streaming boxes; an Android TV-powered game console produced by Razer flopped due to technical problems. And the Nexus Player, which Google built in partnership with Asus, has been unavailable for months. Android TV program manager Sascha Prueter admitted as much during an interview with Variety, saying: “OTT devices are a tough space.”
Google has had more success with another streaming device: The company announced this week that it has sold more than 25 million Chromecast streaming adapters to date.
Propelled by this success, Google has also been able to win over new partners to add casting directly to TV sets. It announced this week that Magnavox, Philips, Polaroid, Toshiba and Westinghouse are going to build TV sets that support casting out of the box. Vizio first introduced Cast-compatible TV sets in March.