Xiaomi Looks To Expand Services On Azure Cloud While Working With Microsoft To Advance Next-Gen Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft entered a formal agreement Friday to work closer with Xiaomi as the Chinese device manufacturer adds to the artificial intelligence services it offers customers and expands its global reach.

The Strategic Framework Memorandum of Understanding between the companies will advance an already strong partnership that's increasingly focused on delivering next-gen AI across devices. The agreement also calls for Xiaomi to "explore" using Azure as a cloud platform for growth into international markets, according to a statement from Microsoft.

"Microsoft’s unique strengths and experience in AI, as well as our products like Azure, will enable Xiaomi to develop more cutting-edge technology for everyone around the world," Harry Shum, Microsoft's executive vice president for its artificial intelligence and research group, said in a prepared statement.

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Per the agreement, Xiaomi will evaluate Azure as a provider of storage, networking, and compute resources, as well as higher-level cloud services. The Chinese hardware vendor will also tap Microsoft's channel to drive sales of its laptops and other devices into new markets around the world, Microsoft said.

As to development of new technologies, "Xiaomi and Microsoft intend to explore multiple cooperative projects based on a broad range of Microsoft AI technologies, such as Computer Vision, Speech, Natural Language Processing, Text Input, Conversational AI, Knowledge Graph and Search, as well as related Microsoft AI products and services, such as Bing, Edge, Cortana, XiaoIce, SwiftKey, Translator, Pix, Cognitive Services and Skype," the statement said.

That will deliver "more synergy between hardware and software" to enhance the end-user experience, according to the Redmond, Wash.-based cloud giant.

Xiaomi has achieved "significant breakthroughs in core artificial intelligence technologies and products," Microsoft said, and introduced a number of "smart" hardware platforms, devices, and big data services.

The companies are also considering ways to integrate Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant with Xiaomi's Mi AI Speaker, a relatively new entrant in the smart home speaker market.