Unknown Android. Chapter 4: Hugo Barra

In 2013, Google lost another one of their valuable employees. Right after Rubin, Hugo Barra, chief of product management, left the company. Barra was born in Brazil, and after getting a major in electrical engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Barra entered the legendary MIT in Cambridge, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in administrative science and an expertise in electrical engineering and IT. During this time, he worked extensively on artificial intelligence, held the post of the class president and obtained his first experience in public speaking.

Barra started his career in the LOBBY7 company, founded in 2000 by his university friends, where he worked on voice recognition software. Five years later, the company was taken over by Nuance Communications, and in 2008 Nuance itself became a part of Google. In 2010, Barra was appointed product manager.

Had you been an Android employee at that time, you could have felt that Rubin was somewhat distant from the other Google departments. It was up to Barra to blur the boundaries, to be fun, energetic and talkative with everyone, to be able to describe in plain language the product’s capabilities to whoever the need may be.

The Nexus OS and Nexus devices required improvement, and feedback collection was an integral part of solving this challenge. With his friendliness and sociability, Barra became the face of Android. On Google I/O, LeWeb and other conferences, Barra showed the general public Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean and KitKat, demonstrated the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 phones and Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets, presented the personalized Google Now search engine and the Google Voice Search system. One of the former Android employees called the “Rubin – Lockheimer – Barra” combination a triumvirate that could lead any enterprise to success.

The retirement of the Android’s negotiator might be one of the most gossipy events in the hi-tech world. Insiders told AllThingsD of a romantic relationship between Barra and a Google employee who later left him for their common colleague, Sergey Brin. Later the woman’s name turned up in the press; it was Amanda Rosenberg and she was the marketing manager for the Google Glass product line launched by Brin, who was undergoing a divorce with Anna Voyjitski at the time. Some claim that this affair was the reason for Barra’s retirement, others say that Barra had decided to leave before he knew of Amanda’s new boyfriend.

Whatever the truth, the farewell letter was courteous and friendly, wishing Hugo Barra the best of luck. While the company will miss him, they were pleased to hear that he would remain within Android’s ecosystem. In October 2013, Barra became the person responsible for the global promotion of the Chinese mobile device brand Xiaomi. Once an obscure name, Xiaomi is now known for debunking China’s reputation as a manufacturer of cheap and shoddy products.

Barra is relentless in elevating the brand to the “Chinese Apple” status. On the Mobile World Congress that took place in February, he compared the recent Xiaomi Mi 5 model to iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy, and the result was not in favor of the Western devices. Barra shows off this stunning success in mischievous viral videos, made in support of the new Chinese flagship model, in which he skips rope and solves a Rubik’s cube. Xiaomi is now recognized globally thanks to the person who once presented Android to the public.

Hugo Barra