Lei Jun’s Tablet Manifesto

Earlier today: Lei Jun’s MiPad Challenge.

In Comments, DPyro gave me a link to an OCR of the graphic-embedded text. It turns out it was incomplete. Fortunately, 1Pad did the entire text [Google Translate]. That’s the version I’ve used as the basis to turn Google Translate into sensible English.

I’ve attempted to preserve his meaning while avoiding the mechanistic language of Google Translate. There’s a few places open to better interpretations — man, can Google Translate mangle things! — but I did my best and hope that I’ve brought across the spirit of his statement. I need to note that this shouldn’t be considered my writing. It’s based on the constraints of Google Translate.

For anyone interested in Xiaomi, you can’t get a better glimpse of it than this.

All of the text past this sentence is from Xiaomi.

Someone Has To Plant Trees

Many people have asked Xiaomi to do a tablet, well before there were so many in the market. Why did it take us four years after the founding of Xiaomi to do one? Because a tablet is a product facing many challenges.

Apple CEO Tim Cook views Android tablets with sarcasm. Last year, he said, the iPad alone accounted for 81% of tablet Internet traffic, and it took too many Android tablets to get just 19%. Two years ago, he said Android tablets were mostly “in warehouses or store shelves or maybe in people’s bottom drawer.”

From a hardware perspective, an Android tablet isn’t difficult to do. There are all kinds of Android tablets everywhere in the market. Some are very expensive, priced up to several thousand yuan, and then there are surprisingly cheap ones that have poor performance. But in the end there are still domestic and foreign Android tablet brands at a variety of prices that are selling well, with very few people selling them as used.

So what’s the problem with a tablet? It’s the ecosystem.

A mobile device has two core functions: Make calls and send texts. As long as it can do those two things, it will sell. Even Blackberry and Microsoft’s Windows Phone sell, because people can use them to make calls and send SMS.

Despite also being mobile, a tablet isn’t the same thing. Since it’s a device designed for “content consumption,” there’s no compelling reason for it to sell based on its own core functionality, like a phone that can make calls and send SMS. It requires and relies on an ecosystem to support it with content delivery. Any tablet without a selection of applications and games is really just a brick.

Two years ago, before the first generation of the Google Nexus 7 tablet was released, I spoke with Hugo Barra about this. He said Google would create its own tablet. I said an Android tablet is difficult to do it in the absence of an ecosystem of good applications and games. It’s not about how many people are willing to use an Android tablet — and at that time there were few — it’s about getting developers willing to create good applications that are specifically designed for an Android tablet.

So at the center of any Xiaomi tablet has to be an ecosystem. It’s only by creating one that we’ll have the chance to do a tablet well.

Creating an ecosystem requires a certain methodology:

1. It must be based on a mature system.

So first, we chose to do Android because we’ve had experience with it. Then we chose the Nvidia Tegra K1 because it’s very powerful and shares an architecture with desktop PCs. This would make it easier for developers to port their PC games.

Most importantly, we selected a Retina-class iPad Mini screen, to make it easy to port iPad applications. Games are difficult to plan when interactions have to account for a variety of screen sizes. So by using the same screen as the iPad Mini in our Xiaomi MiPad, our aim is to make it easier for those developers to “transplant” into our ecosystem.

2. Isn’t it more difficult to do a tablet since there’s no effort to create an Android tablet ecosystem?

Yes, it is. The ones promoting ecosystems are generally chip manufacturers and the providers of operating systems, not equipment manufacturers. So the pros and cons of each one had to be considered. There’s the ARM architecture that powers most tablets. And then there’s Intel with its x86-based solution.

Plus, any equipment manufacturer creating an ecosystem would also benefit competitors.

It’s not difficult to see. Even though companies such as Samsung and Asus have released tablets, neither one made any effort to promote a tablet-specific ecosystem. They’ve just been content to drive a stake in the ground and let others take care of the rest of it. That’s the most cost-effective route.

When we decided to do a Xiaomi tablet, a colleague wondered if we’d look like fools trying to promote a tablet-specific ecosystem. I said, Well, even though Apple has again humiliated the Android tablet market, someone still has to do it and be first. We’re also very cognizant that this will require a large investment. And if we succeed, it will also add convenience to the tablets of our competitors. But if competitors imitate us and use the same screen ratio, then the bigger benefit will be the sharing of the ecosystem.

So someone has to do more than drive a stake; someone has to plant a tree with roots. Since many people need an Android tablet, Xiaomi is willing to make this contribution to the entire industry. Tim Cook said Android tablets are garbage; we at Xiaomi disagree and want to show you otherwise. At the very least we’ll be giving customers a cheaper — and we think better — alternative to the iPad.

Xiaomi has years of experience building ecosystems. With our world-class MIUI, allowing users to customize Android in a way that best suits them, we’ve already gathered more than fifty million users around the world into an ecosystem with the industry’s best developer community. An Android tablet is challenging, but we’re willing to try. We also know that we can fail.

As the mobile Internet evolves, it will increase opportunities to distribute content in different ways, and this makes an Android tablet promising. Therefore, we hope that the best developers and content creators will cooperate to enhance and support Android tablet-specific applications and content. This isn’t just to help our Xiaomi tablet, but to open up the market beyond Android smartphones.

There are new opportunities beyond smartphones, and games for tablets, and it’s Xiaomi’s vision to lead and to create a new ecosystem for the entire industry.

Together, instead of just driving stakes, we can all settle down together and plant trees!


Previously here:

Xiaomi: A Company Obscured By Language

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Filed under Android, iPad Mini Clones, Reference

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