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Xiaomi’s Mi Max is one of the devices that will have Office and Skype pre-installed under the new deal.

Device maker Xiaomi has agreed to acquire nearly 1,500 Microsoft patents and pre-install Office and Skype on its Android-based smartphones and tablets, giving the Redmond company’s apps a new channel to reach customers in China, India and other parts of the world.

Microsoft executive Peggy Johnson announced the blockchain partnership at Microsoft's Envision conference in New Orleans this morning. (GeekWire Photo, Kevin Lisota.)
Microsoft business development chief Peggy Johnson.

The provisions are part of an expanded partnership between the companies, announced overnight. It’s the latest move by Microsoft, under business development chief Peggy Johnson, to get its software pre-installed by device makers, expanding the reach of its key apps and cloud services.

With its own smartphone hardware business in decline, Microsoft is focusing on increasing its footprint by boosting usage of its software and online services on mobile devices. Microsoft has struck similar deals with Samsung, Dell, and regional device makers in Russia, Africa, Canada, Pakistan, Turkey and other countries.

The company says the Xiaomi deal will allow it to reach tens of millions of new customers. The pre-installation will start in September, with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Skype shipping on devices including the Xiaomi Mi 5, Mi Max, Mi 4s, Redmi Note 3 and Redmi 3.

In addition, the companies entered into a patent transfer and cross-licensing agreement.  As noted by Reuters, the patents give Xiaomi some much-needed protection from intellectual property claims in areas including voice communications, multimedia and cloud computing.

Xiaomi was a top 5 global smartphone vendor in 2015, ousting LG from that standing, but the company has seen its position slip in the face of intense competition from new brands in China.

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