Xiaomi's latest tablet comes in two versions: One running Android, and one powered by Microsoft Windows 10, in a major departure for the company.
Although Xiaomi does not sell many phones in the United States, it’s the world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker by sales, best known in emerging markets like China and India for making high-quality affordable Android devices.
Soon, Xiaomi may be known for making Windows computers. The Chinese company announced on Tuesday that it intends to sell a tablet running Windows 10 by the end of December. The device is Xiaomi’s first to use Microsoft’s operating system.
The $200 Mi Pad 2 is unlikely to be a competitor to high-end tablets like Microsoft’s Surface. Xiaomi isn’t selling a keyboard case that would turn it into a full laptop replacement, and its eight-inch screen is smaller than most tablets designed for heavy productivity use. It’s also unlikely to be sold in the United States—currently, Xiaomi only sells a few accessories in the American market.
Judging by its specs, the Mi Pad 2 is a good value, like most Xiaomi devices. It’s powered by an Intel INTC Atom processor, comes with 2GB of RAM, and its 2048 x 1536 screen is the same size and resolution as the Apple iPad Mini 4 APPL . In fact, the Mi Pad 2 takes several design cues from Apple’s iPad Mini, including its general size and look.
That Atom processor means the Mi Pad 2 will run a full version of Windows 10. Microsoft’s Windows 10 was designed to work across laptops, smartphones, and tablets, but in order to run older Windows apps or the traditional desktop environment, Windows still requires an x86 chip—the type made by Intel.
The Mi Pad 2 will also come in a version running Xiaomi’s version of Android GOOG , which is on sale now. Xiaomi also announced a new phone on Tuesday, the $140 Redmi Note 3—an affordable 5.5-inch Android handset with a fingerprint scanner that will likely sell very well in China and India. Xiaomi updated its connected air purifier as well, which will bolster its lineup of smart home products.
Although the global PC market—Windows computers, mostly—shrunk over 10% in the most recent quarter, some computer makers see Windows tablet sales as an opportunity to return to growth. Microsoft has enticed its hardware partners to make smaller Windows tablets in the past by significantly discounting its licensing fee for devices with screens under nine inches.
Microsoft MSFT has successfully positioned its latest version of Windows as an excellent tablet operating system. Now it has to convince mobile device makers, who may already be familiar and comfortable with Android, to give it a shot. Persuading the “Apple of China” to release a Windows 10 tablet is a good start.
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