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Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi to release first tablet: sources

A user of Xiaomi uses his mobile phone to take a photo at a launch ceremony of Xiaomi Phone 2 in Beijing August 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee
A user of Xiaomi uses his mobile phone to take a photo at a launch ceremony of Xiaomi Phone 2 in Beijing August 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING/TOKYO (Reuters) - Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi will soon release its first tablet, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, expanding the fast-growing company's product lineup in a potential challenge to Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc.

Xiaomi this week said it would hold a launch event in Beijing on May 15, but declined to give details or comment further. The sources could not confirm whether the tablet would be unveiled at that event.

The four-year-old Chinese company, which reached the No. 5 spot in its home market in the final quarter of last year according to Chinese research firm Analysys, is a standout among China's crop of emerging smartphone makers that are expanding the market with lower-priced products.

They are also creating new opportunities for parts suppliers in Japan, including display makers Sharp Corp and Japan Display Inc, as they bolster their offerings of high-specification features to compete with global brands. Xiaomi lists Sharp as a display supplier on its website and the sources said Sharp would make the displays for the Xiaomi tablet.

Xiaomi scored a hit last year with the Mi 3, its flagship smartphone that sold 100,000 units in 90 seconds when it was released online in October. Its low-cost Redmi handset has also sold strongly in China and was recently launched in Singapore.

Xiaomi, which is more than doubling its sales every year with plans to sell 40 million phones this year versus 18.7 million last year and 7.2 million the year before, has cemented its reputation in the expanding high-end Chinese smartphone market to compete against the likes of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Lenovo Group Ltd.

Following the March launch of a 5.5 inch-screen "phablet", Xiaomi will next release its first tablet, fitted with a 7.9 inch screen, and has already ordered parts, the sources said. It will likely be called the "MiPad", they added.

Xiaomi, which was founded in April 2010 by entrepreneur Lei Jun, is among a host of young homegrown handset brands in China that also include Oppo and Coolpad.

They are now looking to expand abroad after winning over Chinese consumers with advanced features at lower prices than comparable handsets from Apple and other well-known brands.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten in Beijing; Reiji Murai and Sophie Knight in Tokyo; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Mark Potter)

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