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Android chief leaves Google for Chinese fork seller Xiaomi

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A senior Google’s Android product exec is leaving Mountain View for an up-and-coming Chinese smartphone-maker.

Vice president of Android product management Hugo Barra has announced he’s joining Android smartphone maker Xiaomi as vice president of its global team to expand the device-maker’s product portfolio and worldwide reach.

The company, which developed its own Android fork under the direction of co-founder former Google engineering director Bin Lin, also makes other devices that are integrated with its MIUI-based firmware, including an internet telly set-top box called the Millet.

The Chinese firm, whose employees include other senior Googlers, last week raised $10m in venture funding.

Barra ran Android product development at Google for three years, and first joined Google in 2008.

The outgoing exec said he had decided to start a new "career chapter".

“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. I'm really looking forward to this new challenge, and am particularly excited about the opportunity to continue to help drive the Android ecosystem,” he said.

Barra's exit follows that of Android founder Andy Rubin in March.

He leaves at the same time as reports emerge of complicated relationship issues inside Mountain View. All Things D reports the spokesperson of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, 40, as confirming his split from wife of six years Anne Wojcicki, also aged 40. The pair, who have two children, are reported to be living apart.

Several reports have claimed that Brin is now seeing a 26-year-old Google Glass marketing manager who reportedly had previously dated Barra.

The BBC reports a "source" as saying the departure "was unrelated to personal issues, adding that Mr Barra had been discussing his move with Xiaomi for some time".

The Reg asked Google for confirmation that Brin is involved with the young woman. We also asked the reason for Barra's exit, and asked the firm about its intended replacement for Barra, but the company did not respond.

Barra joins fellow ex-Googler Lin, who is president of the up-and-coming Chinese firm. Lin was a Google engineering director between 2006 and 2010 and also served time at Microsoft as a software design engineer.

Xiaomi sells cheap Android phones in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, but CEO Lei Jun says its secret is its software. He told Reuters earlier this month that "the mobile phone is only the carrier. Microsoft used to sell Windows in a box with a CD in it. Does that make Microsoft a paper box company?"

Just three years old, the firm sold its first smartphone in October 2011. ®

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