Until now, Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant—a voice controlled helper that answers questions, plays music on command, and orders diapers —has been limited to only a few devices. People needed one of Amazon’s home automation devices, the Echo and Echo Dot, or its Fire TV for streaming video, to use the sci-fi technology.
But on Thursday, Amazon gave its customers another option by integrating Alexa into its Fire tablets, starting with its new Fire HD 8. A rival to Apple’s iPad and Android tablets, the Fire is designed for watching movies, browsing the Internet, reading books, and playing games.
Amazon’s addition of Alexa to the Fire tablet comes as the company tries to grow the usage of its technology, which competes against Apple’s Siri. Amazon, which says it has more than 1,000 people working on Alexa’s technology, wants to encourage greater adoption.
The new Fire tablet has 12 hours of battery life (up from eight hours from the previous version) and the capacity for an additional 200 GB of storage compared with 128 GB of additional storage with the previous version. The new tablet also includes rear and front-facing cameras.
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Amazon has also significantly cut the Fire tablet’s price. The Fire HD 8 costs $90 versus $150 for the previous version. As with most of Amazon’s devices, the aim isn’t to make money off of the hardware but instead to sell digital content such as books, movies, and TV shows to users. Because of the additional storage, users can, in theory, buy more content.
“We believe in a different approach to tablets—providing premium products at non-premium prices—and customers love it. In fact, we’ve seen Fire tablet sales more than double year-over-year as a result,” Kevin Keith, Amazon’s general manager of Fire Tablet, said in a statement.
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Over the past year, Amazon has indeed gained some modest ground in the tablet market. According to ABI Research, Amazon shipped 5 million tablets in the fourth quarter of 2015, which accounted for 11.5% of the total market (up from 1.5 million tablets the same quarter in 2014). It’s still behind Apple’s iPad however, which shipped 16.1 million devices in the same quarter, with 37.2% of the total share.
Perhaps a cheaper tablet that still has a number of well-used features will help the Fire close more of the gap with the iPad.