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Xiaomi's minimalist, $150 rice cooker is the first in a new product ecosystem

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Xiaomi

Chinese tech firm Xiaomi has made a name for itself with its cheap-but-premium Android handsets, but the company has ambitions beyond cell phones. It already offers a number of home products and appliances under its brand, including air and water purifiers. Today, it announced a new sub-brand to tie these devices together. With "Mi Ecosystem" Xiaomi will puts its stamp of approval on products manufactured by partners, with the first  — a minimalist, $150 rice cooker — going on sale on April 6th.

The cooker itself is somewhat typical of Xiaomi's approach, combining a sleek and simple design (not dissimilar to rice cookers built by Japanese firm Muji), a handful of connected smarts, and a price that undercuts the competition. The cooker will sell for just 999 yuan (around $153), which Xiaomi says is about 40 percent cheaper than its rivals.

Users can scan barcodes on rice packets to get perfect cooking times

The cooker has a cast iron bowl with Teflon coating and is controlled by Xiaomi's Mi Home app. Customers can use their smartphone to scan the barcode on different types of rice, with the cooker automatically adjusting its methodology and temperature to suit that particular variety and the users' taste. (Xiaomi says it has catalogued 200 different brands of rice so far for this purpose, and will expand this selection in the future.)

For the wider "Mi Ecosystem," Xiaomi says it has invested in a total of 55 companies. These include a pair of firms (Zhimi and Viomi) that were "incubated" by Xiaomi and that make its air and water purifiers respectively. The company says that seven of these 55 firms have annual sales of over 100 million yuan ($15 million), while two have reached sales of more 1 billion yuan. In a press release, Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun said he wanted the ecosystem to "promote an upgrade in Chinese manufacturing with a new concept of ‘Made in China’ products." Though it seems it will still be a while before Xiaomi's devices — including their smartphones — go on sale in the West.