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Hugo Barra leaving Google for Chinese Xiaomi

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Hugo Barra, the VP of Product Management for Android, will be moving to Xiaomi, the high-end Chinese phone manufacturer, after internal affairs sparked problems and rifts around the company’s leadership team.

Barra is well known in the Android world, he attends and regularly hosts the Android conferences with Sundar Pichai and other Android executives. The move to Xiaomi has come as a surprise to many, who have seen Barra’s impressive work in product development for Android as influential in the worldwide growth of the mobile OS.

This comes just a few months after Andy Rubin, the founder of ex-Android and Senior VP for Mobile at Google, dropped the position to start working on a new project at Google. Many believe Rubin had lost passion for the Android project and Sundar Pichai has since stepped in to fill the position.

Barra has spent almost six years at Google, working his way up the ranks. He previously worked for Nuance, the natural language team that works on Siri. He will now lead Xiaomi’s International Business Development and Android Strategic Partnerships team.

Xiaomi is a young Android partner but is growing extremely fast, the company recently got 10 million orders for the Xiaomi Red Rice (Hongmi) in China, offering the high-end smartphone out to buyers for the equivalent of $139.

Barra’s move to Xiaomi may push the company beyond the high walls of China and into the Western world. Barra has worked on the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7, both devices come very cheap compared to the competition. Perhaps Barra will be able to get Xiaomi products into Europe and the US off contract for the same cheap price.