One of Google's most senior Android executives is unexpectedly leaving the online giant to assume a leadership position at the China-based smartphone firm Xiaomi. Hugo Barra, vice president of product management for Android at Google, has been the public face of the product for the past few years and most recently launched the Nexus 7 tablet in a special event last month.

But take heart, Android fans: Xiaomi makes Android-based smartphones.

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"I have decided to start a new career chapter," Barra wrote in a post to Google+, the online giant's little-used social networking service. "In a few weeks, I'll be joining the Xiaomi team in China to help them expand their incredible product portfolio and business globally—as Vice President, Xiaomi Global. I'm really looking forward to this new challenge, and am particularly excited about the opportunity to continue to help drive the Android ecosystem."

Xiaomi is little known outside of China, but Barra's hiring suggests that's about to change. According to recent market data from Canalys, Xiaomi is the sixth biggest seller of the devices in that country, where it outsells Apple's iPhone. And it has experienced enormous growth in the past year, doubling sales over the previous year.

But why leave such a high-profile position at the firm that created and maintains Android?

If you're interested in industry gossip, you'll be titillated to discover that AllThingsD (which has turned into the tech world's version of TMZ) has a potential answer. There, you can find out that Barra was allegedly involved in a "thorny personal situation related to a romantic relationship" with a coworker. (Falling on the heels of another Google-based AllThingsD exclusive, "a difficult and fraught situation" involving cofounder Sergey Brin leaving his wife while being involved with another coworker," you might think that these events are somehow related and/or relevant. Nope. "Sources said his decision to leave the company is unrelated and was made before he was aware of the new relationship," AllThingsD reports. Which makes one wonder why it was even worth reporting.)

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Google voiced its support of Barra.

"We wish Hugo Barra the best," a Google statement reads. "We'll miss him at Google, and we're excited that he is staying within the Android ecosystem."

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