Xiaomi and Microsoft announced today that they’re deepening a previously established partnership to encompass work on cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and PC hardware. Thus far, the two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding, pledging to evaluate future avenues of collaboration.
It’s good news for Microsoft, since Xiaomi is a fast-growing company with a strong presence in China that’s looking to build its business outside its home market. As Xiaomi rises, several key Microsoft products could benefit, including its Azure cloud platform and Cortana virtual assistant.
Xiaomi said in a press release that it is evaluating potential use of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to support its ambition of reaching customers worldwide. Right now, the company uses Microsoft’s cloud computing regions in China (which are operated by a local company) to power its Mi Cloud service.
Speaking of Azure, the two companies are also working together on projects that use Microsoft’s AI capabilities, like the company’s computer vision and natural language APIs. It’s unclear what those will entail in practice, however.
Xiaomi is also talking to Microsoft about integrating Cortana into the Mi AI Speaker, a Bluetooth smart speaker that theoretically supports English commands but doesn’t seem to do well with them in practice. Microsoft’s virtual assistant already speaks Chinese, so integrating that service with Xiaomi’s product could provide it with new life outside the company’s home market.
An integration with Cortana may also help Xiaomi compete locally with Baidu, which is pushing its DuerOS virtual assistant platform inside China.
On top of all that, Xiaomi will also work with Microsoft to support the future launch of laptop and “laptop-type” devices in international markets. Microsoft is expected to provide joint marketing, channel support, and product development help as Xiaomi pushes out new hardware products.
The company is no stranger to the PC market, but this deal might help it pick up additional buyers.
This partnership builds on a 2016 deal that saw Xiaomi agree to ship Microsoft Office and Skype on its Android smartphones, along with an intellectual property agreement between the two firms.