Amazon puts ‘hands-free’ Alexa voice assistant on its new tablet

How to revive a stagnant tablet market? Make the gadgets more like those fast-selling, voice controlled speakers. That looks like Inc’s strategy with the launch of its latest flagship tablet.  

The company debuted a new version of its Fire HD 10 tablet on Sept 19 that has a high-definition screen for watching video, up to 64 GB of storage, a lower price and a processor that runs 30% faster, Amazon said. 

The most significant new feature is hands-free voice control, which lets users ask questions and do other things like play music and listen to the news by saying “Alexa” without touching the device. Along with audio-based responses, the tablet will display information, like weather and calendar appointments, on special cards on the screen like the Echo Show speaker introduced earlier this year. This only works when the tablet is hooked up to WiFi. (Last year, Amazon added Alexa to its Fire tablets but the digital assistant had to be summoned with the touch of a button.) 

This feature will be added to Fire HD 10 tablets through a software update starting Oct 11, and more Alexa capabilities will be added to the device in the future, Amazon said. 

Tablets launched earlier in the decade to much fanfare and the possibility of seriously cannibalising sales of laptops. But the market has cooled significantly in recent years. In the second quarter, shipments fell 3.4% from a year earlier. 

Amazon had 6.4% of the market, up 52% year over year, but still trailed Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics Co, and Huawei Technologies Co, according to IDC data. By contrast, the market for Internet-connected speakers grew 62% last year, with Amazon’s Echo devices leading, Strategy Analytics data show. 

In a move to boost adoption of the Fire HD 10, the new model will cost US$150 (RM629), which is US$80 (RM335) cheaper than the previous generation. Amazon typically sells its gadgets for little or no profit to boost sales of its retail and web services like Amazon Prime subscriptions and digital content. 

Amazon tablets will also be getting a software update with a dedicated recommendations page to push the download of new movies, music, and books, Amazon said. — Bloomberg