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Serving ads on MIUI is not unfair: Xiaomi

Photo: ReutersPremium
Photo: Reuters

  • The company has often been criticised for serving advertisements on MIUI, its custom interface for smartphones
  • COO Muralikrishnan points out that the biggest Internet businesses today, like Google and Facebook, are built on ads. So, Xiaomi doesn’t see this as an unfair practice

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi recently hit 80 million monthly active users (MAUs) for its MIUI operating system. However, the company has often come under scrutiny for monetising this interface by selling ads to its users.

Well, Xiaomi has no plans to stop this because it is a core element of its business model. “Will we continue focusing on Internet services? Yes, because that is part of our core business model," said Muralikrishnan B, Chief Operating Officer (COO) , Xiaomi India, speaking to Mint on the sidelines of its Redmi Note 8 Pro smartphone launch today. These services can include paid subscriptions, recommendations and advertising.

Internet services includes Xiaomi’s content platforms, apps and even MIUI to some extent. The company has always maintained that Internet services remain an important part of its business model alongside making smartphone maker and an Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem.

Muralikrishnan pointed out that the biggest Internet businesses today, like Google and Facebook, are built on on ads. So, Xiaomi doesn’t see this as an unfair practice. However, he said certain quality standards have to be maintained on how ads and recommendations are served, so that they aren't unnecessarily intrusive.

However, he noted that the company may be clearer about how it serves such content to users. “A lot of people confuse ads and recommendations. We probably need to reinforce the difference between the two clearly," he said.

According to him, Xiaomi serves recommendations on some of its services and apps, while it places ads in others. “If you download a third party security app today, will they not serve ads?" he asked. Most developers who provide free apps on any platform monetise the same using advertisements.

Xiaomi announced the newest version of MIUI today, called MIUI 11. The software will be rolling out to various devices over the next month or so. The company has apps for payments, video and music streaming etc. on this platform.

In future, Xiaomi also hopes consumers will subscribe for the content it provides, not just on MIUI but also on Patchwall (its TV operating system). At the moment, you can watch content from Hungama on the Mi Video app and can also subscribe to the content. “Is that (services) part of our business model? Yes, it has been so in China and it will continue being so in India," the COO said.

The company also runs a payments app, called Mi Pay, which is built on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform. Muralikrishnan claims the platform had approximately 18 million users as of August, 2019.

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