China's Xiaomi. It's the Apple of China, or so some would have us believe. This company has been called China's Apple, and its CEO has been called China's Steve Jobs. Do a Google search for "China's Apple," and Xiaomi will auto-complete. Hit search and you'll get 8.8 million results.
It's a bunch of crap, of course, and this weekend Xiaomi demonstrated its commitment to proving it.
Xiaomi gets compared to Apple for a number of reasons. Lei Jun, the company's founder and CEO dresses like Steve Jobs, for instance. He has a certain flare and a penchant for imitating Apple's media events and Steve Jobs's presentations during those media events.
That Seems Vaguely Familiar
The company also makes cheap smartphones that look good, especially when compared to the dreck that makes up most of the Android world. The company's most recent models achieve the stunning accomplishment of looking very much like Apple's current iPhone models (see above). Xiaomi has taken that one step further by skinning Android to look a lot like iOS 7, too. Here's a Xiamoi promotional video:
To be fair, Xiaomi used a slightly different palette. That's innovative, right? No, wait. I get that mixed up sometimes. It's shameless—right, that's the word, but considering China's track record on intellectual property, it's most definitely not surprising.
And that's why the comparison's to Apple and Steve Jobs drives me nuts. Copying Apple doesn't make you Apple. Following in Apple's footsteps doesn't make you Apple. Dressing like Steve Jobs doesn't make you Steve Jobs.
What does make you like Apple is innovating. Creating. Making something new. What makes you like Apple is seeing pain points that consumers have in their lives or their jobs and thinking differently about how to solve them. What makes you like Apple is the ability to invent products no one else has imagined that make us wonder how we got on without them.
Xiaomi doesn't do any of these things. This company is little more than a corporate child playing executive dress-up and parotting the actions of its better. Xiaomi isn't bringing anything new to the world, and I doubt it is capable of doing so.
But it's much easier for the media to not think critically about these things, to mistake looking like Apple with being like Apple. Instead of calling Xiaomi "China's Apple," the company might instead have been labeled "China's Samsung," only Xiaomi is better at copying than the Korean giant.
That's a pertinent point, because I've seen frequent mentions that Xiaomi poses a threat to Apple. There is no doubt that Xiaomi has bene coasting to greatness by pretending to be Apple, but it's Samsung that should be worried. Xiaomi's Android products are cheaper and look better than Samsung's (who mostly stopped copying Apple a couple of years ago), and it's Samsung that will lose share to Xiaomi.
But they're still just Android products. Xiaomi can slap a new coat of paint on Android all it wants, but underneath it's just Android. Heretofore, Apple has competed with Android as a whole, while Android makers largely fight amongst themselves for market share. An iOS 7-like look and feel and Lei Jun in a mock turtleneck won't change that.