Amazon Slashes Price, Adds Alexa To New Fire Tablet

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NEW YORK (CBSMiami/AP) —  Amazon slashed the price of its new Fire tablet by almost half and added its popular voice assistant Alexa in hopes of making it a hot holiday item.

The new Fire HD8 tablet will cost $90, down from $150. Mixed-use battery life is up to 12 hours from 8, and the base storage is doubled to 16 gigabytes.

The biggest change is that the tablet will have Alexa functionality. That means that when users tap and hold the tablet’s home button, they can ask the assistant for anything from weather reports to news queries, and also get the device do things like adjusting the lights or temperature on compatible smart-home devices.

The tablet market, in general, has been slumping. Most people have already bought one who wanted one and see little reason to upgrade. Worldwide tablet shipments fell 12.3 percent to 38.7 million in the second quarter, according to the International Data Corp (IDC).

But Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. has managed to grow its share by slashing prices of its Fire tablet and encouraging people to buy more than one. Its base model, with few bells and whistles, costs just $49.

The Fire HD price cut, in particular, makes it attractive to buyers, IDC research manager Jonathan Gaw said.

“The rest of the tablet category has pretty much taken a dip, whereas Amazon has been able to increase their share,” he said. “They are not necessarily out to make a great margin on the device itself so it works out pretty well for them.”

Related: Apple Unveils iPhone 7 & Updated Smartwatch

Alexa voice-recognition software will be available on all the new tablets, as well as via a free over-the-air software update for Fire HD 8 tablets from last year. The software was originally part of Amazon’s Echo $180 smart speaker, which is activated by voice commands.

Third-party devices have begun to use it too. A home intercom system called Nucleus and a portable speaker from Triby also come with Alexa software built in.

On the tablets, users can see visual cards, similar to what’s on the Amazon Echo app, for each query they make.

Kevin Keith, Amazon’s general manager of Fire tablets said he expects tablet users to use Alexa mainly while using tablets for entertainment like movies and e-books.

“It’s a way to enhance the entertainment experience,” he said.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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