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Microsoft and Xiaomi will pair up on AI-powered speakers and hardware

They signed a non-binding memorandum to team up, though new products aren't guaranteed.
David Lumb, @OutOnALumb
February 23, 2018
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Mike Segar / Reuters

In July, Chinese tech giant Xiaomi jumped into the smart speaker race with its answer to Amazon's Alexa and Google Home, the $45 Mi AI -- though it probably won't find its way to American shores, given how had a time it's had penetrating the US and European markets. Today, the company made a different move with artificial intelligence, signing a deal with Microsoft to partner up on projects involving AI, cloud computing and hardware to help the device company expand into other markets.

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding, Xiaomi will harness Microsoft's Azure cloud platform to expand services for its users, including data storage and bandwidth. The American tech company will consult the Chinese tech giant on joint marketing and channel support to get Xiaomi's laptops into new international markets. And, of course, partnering will give Microsoft access to Xiaomi's users across the world.

And that Mi Speaker? Both companies will see how well it works when Cortana is integrated with it as a first step toward greater collaboration on smart speaker products. As The Verge points out, Microsoft's sole entry in that market, the Harmon Kardon Invoke, had a hard time prying market share away from digital assistant speakers by Amazon and Google.

The last item both companies plan to collaborate on are different kinds of Microsoft AI tech like vision, speech, natural language processing, conversational intelligence and more -- things to help make Microsoft's consumer-facing software (Bing, Edge, Cortana, SwiftKey, Skype, etc) smarter. While it's way to early to name any possible products, the memorandum notes Xiaomi's strong hardware experience as potential direction for their synergistic efforts. Of course, it's also just a memorandum, not a binding document, so this partnership isn't absolutely guaranteed to result in a novel new product featuring the best of both companies' worlds.

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