Amazon distancing itself from Apple's playbook with Kindle Fire HDX

Amazon distancing itself from Apple's playbook with Kindle Fire HDX

Summary: Forget virtual assistants. Amazon is installing real people into the latest Kindle Fires.


Step aside, Siri?

Bezos was more keen in showing off the software enhancements on the Kindle Fire, and if there is only one to write home about, it's Mayday.

"If you look at Amazon's history, we're uniquely situated to be good at this feature," Bezos argued. "It's the marriage of high tech and heavy lifting, and we've done a lot of that over the years."

Gathering just a handful of us around him at a conference table like children getting ready for story time in grade school, Bezos introduced what he described as a "completely unique feature" unlike anything on the market.

Rather than just settling for voice recognition and virtual assistant technology, Mayday taps into one of Amazon's most well-known and prided characteristics: 24/7 customer service.

Filed under the Settings menu, Mayday opens a small pop-up box on the screen, connecting the user directly to a live customer service agent for free at anytime from anywhere with an internet connection. The user can see the customer service agent, but not vice versa, to which Bezos quipped that customers won't have to worry about what they're wearing when trying to get answers quickly.

Customer service agents can see the user's screen on their end and direct the user step by step, offering help for complicated tasks from configuring VPN access to simpler activities such as adjusting the lock screen. The one thing they can't see, assured Amazon reps, is sensitive data. Any time a user has to enter a password or credit card information, the user's screen is blacked out on the agent's side.

Amazon is also aiming to promise response times within 15 seconds or less, and Bezos specified that Amazon will be ready for a heavy wave of requests at launch as well as on Christmas Day, the customer call center's busiest time of year.

"If you look at Amazon's history, we're uniquely situated to be good at this feature," Bezos argued. "It's the marriage of high tech and heavy lifting, and we've done a lot of that over the years. We already have thousands of technical support reps for Kindle."

"There's no way to build that feature unless you can operate throughout that entire stack," Bezos stressed, admitting that "we could never do this without our cloud capabilities."

Mayday represents the power and breadth of Amazon's diverse portfolio in a nutshell, being that it taps into every stack in the layer outlined by Bezos. That stack, according to the company chief, consists of hardware, an operating system, key apps, the cloud, and services.

"There's no way to build that feature unless you can operate throughout that entire stack," Bezos stressed, admitting that "we could never do this without our cloud capabilities."

He added that this is true for the second-screen feature being added to the Kindle Fire operating system and all the synchronization features that Amazon provides.

Amazon is preparing Mayday for international support, but it will initially only be available in the United States.

Low-end market covered


It could also be argued that Amazon is more interested in taking on the low-end mobile market than Apple is based on the recent (and underwhelming, to some) introduction of the iPhone 5c. (That is, of course, in reference to tablets. Bezos remained mum about any Amazon-made smartphone rumors, replying only that he doesn't like to speculate about "future road maps.")

While the most basic configurations of the HDX tablets are still cheaper than Apple's 16GB iPad 4 and iPad mini, Amazon is going toward the bottom even further with a "new" 7-inch Kindle Fire HD.

Essentially, it is a new device with some familiar parts, taking the best processor and display technology of last year's high-end Kindle Fire models and putting them in a smaller package with less storage space (8GB) and a smaller price tag ($139).

However, there is no microphone on this lower-end model, meaning it does not support the Mayday feature.


Both models are up for pre-order now. Shipping first on October 18, the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX will start at $229 for a 16GB Wi-Fi only model. A 4G version will be available for $329 and will start shipping on November 14. Along with AT&T, Verizon has been added as an available wireless carrier.

The 8.9-inch 16GB Wi-Fi HDX will retail for $379 and start shipping on November 7. The 4G version will cost $479 and start shipping on December 10.

Amazon is also trotting out some new accessories for the Kindle Fire, namely some Origami-style magnetic stands available in seven different shades for both form factors.

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Cloud, Hardware, Tablets

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  • What is saving the Fire HD is Prime

    The Amazon Prime bundle is the only reason the Kindle Fire is selling. If Amazon props the bundle or even if it just limits the service, the Fire would die faster the the MS Surface.

    Not only is Kindle using a 3 year old version of Android, except for being an good virtual store for Amazon and a decent colored ereader, so far is no good for anything else.
    • US-centric

      Many of Amazons services does not work in many countries outside of the US. If you live outside of the US, just buy an iPad, surface or Nexus tablet and install the kindle app.
    • The Tablet Fanboys Love to Hate

      How is Android 4.3 a 3 year old version? You have something newer? And your assertion that the Fire would Fire without Prime...that's equally absurd. Much as it pains you, the Fire in North America is the most-used Android tablet. Also, in a survey that measured who"loves" their tablets, only the iPad and Fire has measurable results.
      Rich Brown
      • Not sure which I like most Kindle HD or Prime or Amazon's selection

        When you have a superior product success is not assured. When you combine three superior products tablet, services, and selection you have a winning combination. What is wrong with combining all three in the same experience?

        Also, get rid of the 1920X1080 pixelated displays. If Amazon can produce a product a tablet at these prices with 1920X1200 or 2,560x1,600 at these prices then all the other big manufactures (HP, Dell, Lenovo) are just plain lazy.
        • The others have higher margins.

          The Fire series price is cheaper because Amazon is basically selling a content device. They are making money off of all the books and such people are paying for. The other companies have a sole revenue stream... selling their device. When the first Fires came out it was believed that Amazon was selling them at near or below cost, knowing they would make the money on content. It is like Glucose Meters... the meters are cheap... some are even given away. They make the money selling test strips. Same with the Fire!
          Thomas Kolakowski
          • Exactly

            iTunes rules of course for the moment in the music universe, but it's no longer out of reach. No one else can match Fire's available content in other arenas. The judge's short-sighted ruling on Apple's arrangements with publishers has ensured that Amazon will have a near monopoly in some sectors of the book market down the road. Will prices be so low then? I'm already seeing a few prices higher than they used to be. So a major revenue stream may get even bigger.

            Since no one else can subsidize the cost of the devices they sell and no one can compete on the basis of $$ per unit of power, screen clarity or any other hardware measure you choose.

            But unless Kindle gets serious about creating an environment that meets the use cases of business users, they won't dethrone iPads, Android tablets or even Windows-based tablets. The ending is not yet written.
          • No complaints

            Amazon has put everything together better than any one else. The should get credit for a great job. They do at get credit when they make a lot of money. They could have stayed with the existing Fires and there was no real competive force that caused the upgrade. They should get extra credit for this. Maybe trolls are just jealous.
      • How many tablets other than Nexus

        run 4.3? How many smartphones other then Nexus run 4.3?

        Nexus products are designed more for developers than they are for the general public.
        • Not true

          Nexus is for people who like android but don't want all the bloated crap the phone makers pile on.
          new gawker
      • Actually

        Prime is one of the few things the Fire line has going for it - and one of the main reasons the Nook line is going away. If it was not for Prime the Fire would be gone and the Nook would be doing well as the Nook has far superior hardware and essentially the same software - just a different UI.
      • I have a Kindle HD..

        It was free with my cable plan. Compared to the iPad, it's a POS. Slow, quality if apps suck compared to iDevice apps. Doesn't have a lot of apps available as the iPad. Crashes a lot. I can go on and on. Considering the new Kindle runs the inferior OS that is Android, you can keep it. I'll be getting the new iPad mini with retina display that's debuting next month at the special Apple event.
    • Read the Article!

      Android 4.3 os not 3 years old! It is less than a year old!
      • less than a year?

        No less than 2 months.
    • Android is junk.

      I would rather buy a Surface being that its a better choice, alot more usefull, and it runs windows 8 and not that Android crap.
      Troll Hunter J
      • Funny

        NOT ONE tech writer brags about owning ANY MS hardware. Hmmm maybe there is a reason. Over priced, anemic hardware with an OS with no useful apps. GEE I want one too... NOT!
      • Nobody cares.

        Go ahead and buy a Surface for any reason you care to invent. Nobody cares what you do, and very few care about the Surface. If you really want to run Metro, there are better choices from other manufacturers, but even those aren't selling very well.

        Surface won't make even a tiny dent in Android sales for at least 5 years. They likely won't even surpass iOS tablet sales by then. The genie is out of the bottle. Everyone on Earth knows they don't need Windows in order to use their tablets. That ship sailed long ago. Microsoft is trying to catch up with a quickly moving target.
        • There are no Android sales, are there? People buy devices.

          Android devices aren't a single company. It is true, Windows Surface isn't the best hardware out there. The Windows 8 is, of course, one of the options as far as operating systems go. It's probably fine for a tablet or phone OS. However most people don't really care about all that as much. If Microsoft comes up with a better device they'll buy Windows phones and tablets. If they come up with a cheaper device people will buy that.
          Andrej Petelin
      • Wait...

        a limited version of Windows 8 (which only runs Windows Metro... er, Windows 8 apps) makes mediocre hardware more useful than something with more than decent hardware running a very curated version of Android?

        My money's on the Fire HDX.
      • Surface runs Windows 8?

        Or you meant Surface Pro which is typically 2x more expensive than high end Android tablet of similar capability. If you meant Surface RT, no it does not run Windows 8, which means you can't run any software that runs on Windows 8, and I doubt it will make them any more useful than any Android junk.
    • Funny

      You have got to be kidding me, Prime sucks compared to Netflix, about the only thing I use Prime for is renting movies and I could use Vudo for that. There is so much you miss being locked into Amazon. So tell me, Why should pass up everything I can get and do on my nexus 7 tablet for a Kindle?