Over the last few years, Microsoft has signed several patent licensing deals with other popular Android OEMs such as Samsung, Acer, Lenovo and Sony, allowing the phone manufacturers to use Microsoft patents in return for bundling select Microsoft apps on their devices such as OneDrive, Skype and the Office suite.
Earlier in June, the increasingly popular Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi also partnered with Microsoft to preinstall Microsoft Office and Skype on future Xiaomi Android devices, with Xiaomi’s senior vice president Xiang Wang explaining at the time that the company was "looking to build sustainable, long-term partnerships with global technology leaders, with the ultimate goal of bringing the best user experience to our Mi fans."
According to a new report from German website WinFuture.de, the Xiaomi Mi Mix, a premium phone which was released in the Chinese market on November 4, is the first handset from the company which comes with Cortana pre-installed. The digital assistant can be found in a dedicated Microsoft folder on the handset’s home screen:
Xiaomi handsets ship with MIUI, a modified version of Android which bears some resemblance with Apple’s iOS operating system. However, Xiaomi handsets targeted at the Chinese market do not ship with Google Play Services or the Play Store, or Google native apps including the Google Now digital assistant. This may well be why the Chinese company partnered with Microsoft to bundle its Cortana digital assistant on the Mi Mix.
According to the report, the Mi Mix which features a borderless design is currently seen as a "concept device" by Xiaomi, who may not have manufactured more than 10,000 units for now. However, it’s not exactly the first time that Cortana is natively integrated in an alternative Android ROM. Last year, Microsoft partnered with Cyanogen to deeply integrate Cortana into the Android-based CyanogenMod OS. But as of today, it's still not clear if Xiaomi plans to bundle Cortana in more of its handsets targeted at the Chinese market.