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article imageEx-Google and Xiaomi exec is new boss of Facebook's VR business

By Business Insider     Jan 26, 2017 in Technology
Facebook has hired Hugo Barra, the most prominent global executive at Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi and a former Google exec, to lead its virtual reality business.
After the news of Barra's departure from Xiaomi after three-and-a-half years at the company broke earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the hire in a Facebook post on Wednesday night.
"Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform. They'll enable us to experience completely new things," he wrote.
The 32-year-old Facebook founder has previously spoken about virtual reality as an important part of the company's future business, especially as the technology becomes less expensive and its uses clearer. Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014, believing it to be the next major computing platform, a part of the business Barra will oversee.
Earlier this week, Barra said he was stepping down as Xiaomi's vice president after three-and-a-half-years, citing health concerns and a new job. "This journey has been nothing short of spectacular in every way," he wrote in a Facebook post on Monday.
"But what I've realized is that the last few years of living in such a singular environment have taken a huge toll on my life and started affecting my health. My friends, what I consider to be my home, and my life are back in Silicon Valley."
At Xiaomi, Barra oversaw international expansion. Founded in 2010, the firm at first grew rapidly thanks to its low-cost, desirable smartphones, that sometimes bore a suspicious resemblance to Apple's designs (although Barra rejected any accusations of copying or "theft"). But the company is like Apple in other ways too — from its charismatic founder Lei Jun to its famously devoted fanbase.
Once the world's most valuable technology startup with a $45 billion valuation, its growth has slowed more recently, as it lost market share and failed to hit sales targets. CEO Lei Jun said at the start of 2017 that the company has grown "too fast," causing problems. The company pulled back from several overseas markets, including Singapore and Brazil, in 2016. It is increasing its offline retail presence and aims to develop artificial intelligence and internet finance as growth areas.
The company's smartphones are not yet available in most Western markets, where Barra — who formerly worked at Google on Android — was its most recognizable spokesperson.
Before Xiaomi, Barra worked at Google as VP of Android Product Management.
Here's the full Facebook post from Mark Zuckerberg announcing the hire.
This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2017.
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