Xiaomi inks Microsoft patent deal and agrees to pre-install Office apps on its phones

Xiaomi is moving closer to launching its smartphones in the U.S. market. Today the Chinese company announced a partnership with Microsoft that includes a cross-license and patent transfer agreement and the pre-installation of Skype and Microsoft Office products on Xiaomi devices.

The companies said that, starting this September, Xiaomi’s Mi 5, Mi Max and Mi 4s, as well as cheaper Redmi Note 3 and Redmi 3 smartphones will be sold with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Skype applications pre-loaded.

The partnership builds on the two companies’ previous collaborations: which have included a Windows 10 build for Android, and the use of Microsoft Azure to power Xiaomi’s Mi Cloud service.

With more than 70 million devices sold last year, the bulk of which were in China, Xiaomi is potentially a significant distribution partner for Microsoft. But, more interesting that the pre-install deal, is the fact that Xiaomi has added more patents.

“Microsoft has sold Xiaomi nearly 1,500 high quality patents that read on a variety of technologies including wireless communications, video, cloud and multimedia,” a Xiaomi spokesperson clarified to TechCrunch, adding that Xiaomi has “been applying for, acquiring and licensing patents” in recent years.

Combine that with Xiaomi’s upcoming Android set-top box, which the company developed closely with Google, and a patent deal with Qualcomm last year, and it is clear that China’s largest smartphone maker is building key allies in preparation to expand its affordably priced devices into new markets: most notably North America.

Right now, Xiaomi’s devices are sold in six countries in Asia and Brazil, but the company has never shied away from the fact that it wants to be more global. That expansion plan is critical since Xiaomi has struggled to reach its own sales targets and justify its lofty $45 billion valuation, largely off the back of slowing mobile growth in China, so new market expansions means more potential to grow.