The past year has been an eventful one for Chinese phone-maker Xiaomi. The company’s devices are now sold in seven countries in Asia, that’s a big step up from Xiaomi’s inception — when it retailed in China only — and, with big plans to be global, the company is finally migrating international user data to servers outside of China, as International VP Hugo Barra revealed today.
This development is important for Xiaomi customers and future buyers of its phones for a couple of reasons. (While the migration will affect international users, those in China will continue to use local servers in the country.)
Firstly, hosting data outside of Chinese services will quicken Xiaomi’s services, which include its iMessage-like MIUI Cloud Messaging service and other features in its company’s MIUI rom, which is basically its own, modified version of Android.
“With this migration, we are expecting to cut network request latency for users in India by up to 350ms, and users in Malaysia to experience 2-3x faster Mi Cloud photosync,” Barra explained.
Xiaomi’s services business is hugely important to the company. With its flagship phone retailing around $300 — its top-selling mid-range devices are priced around $150 — margins are tight meaning that the company generates far less revenue from hardware. In addition, it brings in revenue from software services. Barra previously told The Next Web that Xiaomi is already profitable, but the company has only ever realized revenue figures, rather than profit and loss data.
Privacy is, of course, the other important issue here.
Xiaomi got itself into hot water this summer when it was found be sharing a range of user information with a server in China. A report from security company F-Secure found that the device’s IMEI number, customer’s phone number, phone contacts and text messages received were all shared but — importantly — there was no way for customers to opt out.
As with all things China and privacy-related, the revelation raised concerns that the information could be accessible by the Chinese government.
Xiaomi quickly offered an opt out for users, but moving their data overseas — MIUI services will be housed in Amazon AWS data centers in Oregon, USA, and Singapore — is the best response to any claims of nefarious intentions.
Indeed, just this week we were reminded of data issues in China after the government was accused of staging a major attack on Apple’s iCloud service with the intention of wiretapping users and accessing their data.
The migration of Xiaomi e-commerce services has already been completed, but MIUI service data is still in the process of being transitioned over. Barra said that it should be done before the end of the year, with some elements completed sooner.
In addition, Xiaomi is aiming to provide a better quality of service in large markets like India and Brazil, the latter of which it aims to launch in soon. Since Amazon Web Services is not currently available in either market, Barra says the company will work with local providers to make sure that “users in these markets will be much closer to their data and enjoy even faster speeds by connecting to local servers.”
Providing faster and more secure user data is of the utmost importance for Xiaomi’s current business model and, of course, its efforts to expand its sales to other parts of the world.
“Our primary goal in moving to a multi-site server architecture was to improve the performance of our services for Mi fans around the world… At the same time, it also better equips us to maintain high privacy standards and comply with local data protection regulations. This is a very high priority for Xiaomi as we expand into new markets over the next few years,” Barra said.
Xiaomi is on track to sell more than 60 million devices this year and, with aggressive global plans, CEO and co-founder Lei Jun believes the company’s sales could top 100 million in 2015.