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Expanded Partnership with Xiaomi Brings Microsoft Apps to More Android Handsets

Paul Thurrott

Expanded Partnership with Xiaomi Brings Microsoft Apps to More Android Handsets

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 smart phone

Microsoft has announced a dramatic expansion of its partnership with China-based device maker Xiaomi on Wednesday. As part of the agreement, Xiaomi will ship Microsoft Office and Skype apps on its Android smart phones and tablets. And Microsoft will reportedly sell 1,500 patents to Xiaomi.

“We are excited to be working closely with Microsoft on a broad technology collaboration partnership,” Xiaomi senior vice president Xiang Wang said in a prepared statement. “As demonstrated by this agreement with Microsoft, Xiaomi is looking to build sustainable, long-term partnerships with global technology leaders, with the ultimate goal of bringing the best user experience to our Mi [device] fans.”

“People want their favorite apps and experiences to work seamlessly on the device of their choice, and that’s exactly what this partnership offers,” Microsoft executive vice president Peggy Johnson said in a corresponding statement. “Together with Xiaomi, we’re bringing the very best in mobile productivity to millions more customers in China and around the world.”

Xiaomi (pronounced “shaow-mee,” roughly) is unknown outside of tech enthusiast circles in the United States as they do not currently sell their smart phones and tablets here. But the firm was the 5th largest maker of smart phones in the world in 2015, having sold about 71 million units, and it is the biggest seller of smart phones in China. Xiaomi is also growing quickly, and expanding internationally as it goes.

The expanded partnership that Microsoft announced with Xiaomi closely mirrors previous deals with Android device makers such as ASUS, Dell, Samsung, Sony, and others, and Xiaomi has agreed to bundle Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) and Skype mobile apps on its popular Android devices—the Mi 5, Mi Max, Mi 4s, Redmi Note 3 and Redmi 3 smart phones—starting in September 2016.

Microsoft had previously partnered with Xiaomi by providing Windows 10 on the Chinese firm’s Mi Pad and with Microsoft Azure powering the Mi Cloud service. But this new deal dramatically expands the scope of the partnership by putting Microsoft apps in front of tens of millions of Android-using Xiaomi customers.

While the Microsoft announcement noted the usual cross-licensing of patents, both The Wall Street Journal and Reuters are separately reporting that the software giant is also selling 1,500 of its 60,000 patents to Xiaomi. These patents will help protect the hardware maker as it expands its business into new markets, including hopefully the United States. Xiaomi will purchase the patents from Microsoft for an undisclosed sum, the reports claim.

“This is much broader than some of the other partnerships we’ve had,” Microsoft corporate vice president Jonathan Tinter told the WSJ.

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