The Chinese tech scene is full of rumors, but boy, this one is interesting. Sina Tech says that according to numerous sources it is in contact with, Xiaomi — the company that kicked off China’s cheap smartphone revolution last year with its M1 phone — has been working on a set-top box much like the Apple TV. Sources say the device is developed enough that it’s already in limited internal testing around the office. Video content for the device will reportedly come from China’s major internet video services, which I have to assume means Youku Tudou, among others.
An anonymous source at Xiaomi told Sina Tech:
Xiaomi is an internet company, and TV set-top-boxes will be using the internet [streaming] as a main selling point. As far as integration with the Xiaomi phone is concerned, it will have a feature like Apple’s Airplay.
We have contacted Xiaomi for confirmation or any comment they might have on this rumor, and will update if we hear back, although we don’t expect to hear anything conclusive. When you think about it, though, a set-top box would make a lot of sense, especially if Xiaomi could make one that relied primarily on 3G (or 4G) technology. Wireless service costs in China are quite low, and while not everyone has a computer or the internet in their homes, most people do have televisions. And if it had access to the vast streaming libraries of Youku Tudou and other major video players, an inexpensive Xiaomi set-top box could have a hugely disruptive impact on the market and accelerate the extent to which Chinese people are streaming their TV from the net rather than tuning in via satellite.
On the other hand, Apple — clearly one of Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun’s inspirations and a pretty successful tech company in its own right — still hasn’t really seen the kind of success with its Apple TV that most of its other products enjoy.
Then again, China is a very different market, and Xiaomi has proven with its smartphones that it knows how to sell here. Is a Xiaomi set-top box really coming, and if it is, can it really catch on? We’ll have to wait and see. But cynical though I am about some of what he says, I really wouldn’t advise anyone to bet against Lei Jun.
[via Sina Tech]