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Xiaomi Reportedly to Build Its Own ARM Chips

The Chinese company, which is making a push into the global market, has gotten the necessary licenses from ARM to custom-design processors.


Xiaomi, the 5-year-old Chinese smartphone maker that is challenging Apple in the massive Chinese market and is preparing to begin selling devices in the United States and Europe, reportedly wants to start making its own ARM-based chips.

According to reports in China media outlets, Xiaomi wants to join the ranks of Apple, Huawei Technologies and Samsung as another smartphone maker that builds its own custom-designed processors rather than buying chips from Qualcomm or MediaTek. The company has gathered the necessary ARM licenses and plans to begin designing them next year.

The move to designing and manufacturing its own chips could give Xiaomi greater control over its smartphone designs and reduce their costs. The company's current Android devices are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors.

During a conference call with analysts and journalists to discuss quarterly financial numbers, ARM executives last month indicated that the company had entered into a licensing deal with a major Chinese OEM for making mobile phone chips, but did not identify who the device maker was.

The move to make chips is part of a larger push by Xiaomi to expand its capabilities and reach in the booming and highly competitive smartphone market that includes such major players as Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, Huawei and LG Electronics. In the first quarter, vendors sold 336 million smartphones, a year-to-year increase of 19.3 percent, according to Gartner analysts.

In an interview with Bloomberg in July, Hugo Barra, vice president of international for Xiaomi, said the company plans to begin selling smartphones in the United States, but not for at least 12 months. The company is busy buying patent licenses and building up its own patent portfolio. The company has filed more than 2,000 patents.

"It's probably going to take having a team here, potentially even a sizable team here, to manage the whole process operationally—certification, ongoing engineering help, and so on," Barra told the news site. "It's no less than a year-plus away."

Xiaomi officials on the company Website give a nod to its global ambitions, noting that it already had expanded beyond China and into such places as Taiwan, Singapore, India and Indonesia.