Saturday, August 6, 2016


Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi has just this Wednesday released its entry into the laptop computer market, in a report by CNN. It’s light and thin “like a magazine” as the ads say; it’s got a nice metal casing and comes in two size variants; it’s powered by Intel processors and runs on Windows 10; and its price is attractively affordable. In other words, it’s perfectly sellable.

But here’s the catch: it looks darn familiar especially if you’ve seen American-made laptops before. The name is also a big loud siren: the “Mi Notebook Air”. Yes, the resemblance to Apple’s MacBook Air is uncanny, and some would dare say deliberate.

Overseas critics of Xiaomi would no doubt see this package as yet another example of how the Chinese manufacturer has been riffing off of the American computer giant. They would even point to the alleged regular fashion sense of Xiaomi’s chairman and CEO Lei Jun, who seems to strut around in public garbed in a very Steve Jobs-esque jeans and dark sweaters. Thankfully the provider of his wardrobe, Chinese garment maker VancI, has revealed that Lei Jun is a major investor of theirs, and has been obligated to wear their clothing brands in what turned out to be a fun coincidence.

Xiaomi’s reputation for outwardly copying Apple gadget designs is a whole other thing though. Its chief international executive Hugo Barra has dismissed the claims a mere “melodrama”, and that styling similarities aside, their company was just as keen for innovation as any other. One example of this, he says, is the curbed glass utilized for the back casing of Xiaomi smartphones, as well as theirdiversification of products, from phones and cameras to appliances like rice cookers and far out geek gear like camera drones.

But detractors of the company and its business sense are calling to question their actual product focus and plans for further growth. In addition, Apple head of design Jonathan Ive had in 2014 called out Xiaomi as a lazy thieving manufacturer for their copycat design inspirations. Xiaomi supporters would fire back that the remark was made in reaction to Xiaomi’s impressive rise in the international electronics scene, even briefly becoming China’s top smartphone brand in 2015, beating out the likes of Apple and Samsung. Those five minutes of fame have come and gone however, and at present Xiaomi smartphones have begun to be outpaced by other Chinese gadget makers, including their primary rival Huawei.

All hopes for a massive comeback for Xiaomi now seems to lie in the Mi Notebook Air, packing the Intel Core i5 processor and Windows 10 OS, available in either 13.3 and 12.5 inch displays. It goes on sale in China on August 2, with no news yet on a planned overseas release.

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