Upstart Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. was dubbed as the “Apple Inc. of China” because its operating model and high-profile acting style intentionally or unintentionally copy Apple.
At the launch of Mi Pad on May 15, Xiaomi admitted that its tablet copies the iPad mini. But is it a good idea for a tech startup that has a valuation at over US$10 billion to be obsessed with imitation?
It appears that Xiaomi has the gene of copying its rivals since the company was founded.
Xiaomi Chief Executive Officer Lei Jun, who was the co-founder and the CEO of Chinese software developer Kingsoft Corp., is a very successful investor for venture capital funds.
It was rumored that Lei was an old acquaintance with Huang Zhang, founder of Chinese consumer electronics company Meizu Technology, and both of them were enthusiastic about the research and development of electronic devices.
Lei was very interested in the operating system that Meizu was developing for smartphones, so he planned to invest Meizu through stake purchase. It was said that Lei and Huang were building “a Chinese Apple” together, but they split from their partnership due to disagreement.
Huang accused Lei of “stealing” Meizu’s operating model of its mobile business after Lei founded Xiaomi, which launched MIUI and Xiaomi forum that are almost identical to Meizu’s M9 UI and Meizu forum.
Gallery: Xiaomi and Rivals’ Product Similarities
Every model launched by Xiaomi seems like a knockoff. Before Xiaomi rolled out its tablet, the company had not directly responded to accusations of copying.
At the Mi Pad launch, Lei compared the Xiaomi tablet with Apple’s devices. Mi Pad has the similar screen size and appearance as the iPad mini but it is offered in a variety of bright colors that are almost identical to the iPhone 5c.
In 2014, Xiaomi phones are likely to hit 60 million units in shipment and the company’s valuation is estimated to exceed US$10 billion, making it the fourth largest Internet firm of China, following Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba.
However, if Xiaomi fails to pave a road of innovation for itself, it may simply be a follower of Apple, despite the large sales.