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article imageMicrosoft and Xiaomi to collaborate on AI, the cloud and hardware

By James Walker     Feb 26, 2018 in Technology
Microsoft and Xiaomi have announced an expanded strategic agreement to collaborate on cloud technologies, AI and hardware products. The companies will be working together on projects including a smart speaker, "laptop devices" and improved AI services.
Services collaboration
The new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was announced by the two software giants late last week. It succeeds previous collaborations between Xiaomi and Microsoft intended to mutually benefit the companies. Microsoft will use the arrangement to develop its AI expertise and scale its products, while Xiaomi will accelerate its international expansion.
The MoU lists four distinct areas in which the companies will work together going forward. These include artificial intelligence and cloud support services across several different verticals. Computer vision, natural language processing, text input and conversational AI are amongst the areas that Microsoft and Xiaomi will explore together.
Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air
Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air
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The firms are also planning to build hardware devices that will integrate with their software products. Microsoft will assist Xiaomi in helping it launch new "laptop-type" devices in international markets. Xiaomi will utilise Microsoft's existing expertise in developing and selling computing devices to reach new customers.
The companies are also "discussing opportunities" to collaborate on a combined smart speaker. This would involve integrating Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant into Xiaomi's existing Mi AI speaker. As Cortana's currently available in just one other smart speaker – the Harman Kardon Invoke – the project would help Microsoft grow the AI's ecosystem through broader hardware support.
International growth
The expanded strategic relationship could enable significant growth for both of the companies. Microsoft has largely withdrawn from its hardware business, with the exception of its relatively successful Surface tablets. Conversely, Xiaomi has built its company on top of the mobile hardware industry but has struggled to expand its services internationally. It's still planning to commence a major push into the U.S., but has so far failed to gain significant traction outside of Asia.
By partnering together, Microsoft and Xiaomi can assist each other. Xiaomi can utilise Microsoft's experience and scale to access new markets. For its part, Microsoft has access to a successful hardware business and can augment its own cloud and AI platforms with new capabilities from Xiaomi's strengths.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Justin Sullivan, Getty/AFP
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"Xiaomi is one of the most innovative companies in China, and it is becoming increasingly popular in various markets around the world," said Dr. Harry Shum, executive president of Microsoft's Artificial Intelligence and Research Group. "Microsoft's unique strengths and experience in AI, as well as our products like Azure, will enable Xiaomi to develop more cutting-edge technology for everyone around the world."
"By collaborating with Microsoft on multiple technology areas, Xiaomi will accelerate our pace to bring more exciting products and services to our users," said Wang Xiang, Xiaomi Global Senior Vice President and Head of International Business. "At the same time, this partnership would allow Microsoft to reach more users around the world who are using Xiaomi products."
The announcement comes after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella visited a Xiaomi retail store with Xiaomi CEO and founder Lei Jun last year. Xiaomi's also reliant on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform for its own consumer-facing cloud services, under an arrangement commenced in 2015. It will now use more Azure capabilities to develop AI services for global users, with input from Microsoft.
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