Android VP Hugo Barra exits Google for Chinese phone maker Xiaomi

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Hugo Barra, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) vice president of Android product management, is leaving the company to join Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi.

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Barra

"After nearly 5½ years at Google and almost 3 years as a member of the Android team--the most amazing group of people I've ever worked with in my life--I have decided to start a new career chapter," Barra wrote on Google+. "In a few weeks, I'll be joining the Xiaomi team in China to help them expand their incredible product portfolio and business globally--as Vice President, Xiaomi Global."

A Google spokesperson could not immediately comment on how the digital services giant will delegate his responsibilities moving forward. "We wish Hugo Barra the best," Google said in a statement to the New York Times. "We'll miss him at Google and we're excited that he is staying within the Android ecosystem."

Barra joined Google in March 2008 from voice and natural language technologies developer Nuance Communications and was a central figure in the Android mobile operating system's evolution. He was also one of the public faces of the Android unit, making regular appearances at media events, including last month's launch of the Android 4.3 update. Xiaomi builds Android-powered smartphones for the Chinese market, bolstered by its own localized software features and enhancements, and is the world's 13th-largest mobile phone manufacturer, according to ABI Research.

Barra is the second significant personnel loss experienced by the Android unit this year. In March, Android head Andy Rubin stepped down to "start a new chapter at Google." Sundar Pichai, the company's senior vice president of Chrome and Apps, took over Rubin's Android duties in addition to his existing work. It remains unclear exactly what Rubin will do at Google now.

Barra's exit raises questions over Android's future and who will steer it. Research firm Gartner reports that the open-source Google OS powered 79 percent of smartphones sold during the second quarter, up from 98.6 million a year ago. But Samsung's dominance over the Android device market reportedly has some manufacturers questioning their commitment to the platform. Google also must resolve lingering issues like Android fragmentation and malware threats, as well as the Google Play app storefront's failure to monetize at a level on par with Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) pacesetting App Store for iOS.

Google is reportedly preparing version 5.0 of Android for release later this year.

For more:
- see this NYT article
- read this All Things D article

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