A top Google exec’s defection to the “Apple of China” is entangled with Sergey Brin’s love life

Hugo Barra is moving on.
Hugo Barra is moving on.
Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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Hugo Barra was the guy in charge of the day to day Android operations at Google. But suddenly he’s leaving for Xiaomi, popularly known as the “Apple of China,” which has grown astronomically into a major manufacturer of Android-based smartphones that is now worth more than Lenovo, the world’s largest PC maker.

Xiaomi no doubt made Barra a handsome offer and he’s probably jumping ship because executives at hard-charging companies like Google tend to be the kind of people who seek out ambitious new challenges. But coincidentally—or not—All Things D is reporting that Barra was dating another Google employee who is now romantically involved with (still married but now separated) Google co-founder Sergey Brin. According to a report by Valleywag, Barra’s ex is the marketing manager for Google Glass, and the inventor of the voice command “OK Glass,” which activates the soon-to-launch wearable computing device. For what it’s worth, sources told All Things D that Barra’s resignation “came before a recent thorny personal situation related to the end of a romantic relationship he had with another Googler.”

Barra’s intimate knowledge of Google’s long-term strategy for Android along with its supplier relationships, strategic partnerships, etc. will no doubt be enormously valuable to Xiaomi, which is locked in a titanic battle against Samsung, HTC, Sony, ZTE, Huawei and countless other makers of Android phones.

The dominance of Android in the global smartphone market has not always been a positive for Google, which gives the software away for free. Google does not make a dime from Xiaomi or most other mainland Chinese-made Android phones, since they do not carry the Google Play store and use search engines other than Google’s.

So while Google has put the gloss on Barra’s leaving, saying that the company is glad he’s staying in the “Android ecosystem,” it’s hard to see his departure as a positive—especially since the details of Sergey Brin’s love life are involved.