This blogpost is not an exhaustive summary of the book. Just contains the notes I took
Like the Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo company of post-war Japan, which changed its name to Sony to reach a global audience, Xiaomi has always aspired to global identity (as with the very expensive acquisition of Mi.com
By 2011 MIUI was better looking and more responsive when running on Samsung smartphones than Samsung’s own version of Android was, and, critically, didn’t drain the battery as quickly—a huge, underappreciated part of the user experience generally.
As the user base has grown from the initial hundred recruits to over a hundred million today, Xiaomi began separating its users into two categories—“fever” fans, who are the most eager for new features and the most technically savvy, and “flood” fans, ordinary users who like Xiaomi’s products but can’t provide detailed feedback.
Xiaomi has always been focused on maintaining that pattern even when it moved into hardware. Selling a Xiaomi phone generates some income, but more importantly, it becomes a way to distribute the MIUI interface.
Online updates also led to one of Xiaomi’s signature tactics—the flash sale. By telling users that a new phone is coming out and asking them to register for participation up to a week in advance, Xiaomi gives itself a better view of demand.
Flash sale. Advance from MIUI users. Founders from services + software background.
Lei Jun has estimated that something like a third of the features in MIUI come from user requests, and he often credits users with co-designing MIUI.
Xiaomi, by contrast, takes customer feedback very seriously. Every Orange Friday release comes with an option for the users to fill out four questions: How did I feel when I upgraded MIUI? (Ranked as a series of emoticons, from smiley to frowny faces.) What did I like best about the new update? What did I like least about the new update? What feature do I most want? Answers are then collated and presented by the thousands to the engineers on the following Tuesday
The user experiences MIUI as a way to operate her phone, but it is actually a bundle of potential new services. User engagement is Xiaomi’s founding logic. When they began, with a small group of employees and just enough cash to get them through early milestones, they began recruiting.
every company builds a bubble around itself, where the products get built and tested in a more controlled environment than they get used in. This is especially true of complex software. What the early users enabled Xiaomi to see was how MIUI actually worked when real (albeit unusually technically proficient) people tried to install it on a wide variety of devices.
Xiaomi’s marketing chief Tony Wei says that new software sent to early testers will generate thousands of reports back overnight, and this openness in turn allows them to try out, test, and fix the critical source of their commercial advantage, a version of the operating system that lets them tie their own services to the user’s device. These are not mere bug reports, of the sort most software now generates automatically. These are user reviews, questions not just about the technical aspects of MIUI but about which features the user likes, dislikes, or wants to see in the future.
The population of mobile phone users in China is larger than the combined population of the U.S. and Western Europe. (Not larger than the mobile phone using population, larger than the total population.) Nearly 90 percent of the adult population in China has a mobile phone (the only kind, in many households.
Lei Jun seems determined to demonstrate that China is more than cheap factories and knockoffs—that a Chinese brand can even be coveted and adored.
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