TIME Gadgets

The Virtual Assistant Powering Amazon’s Echo is Coming to Tablets

Fire HD 8
Amazon Fire HD 8

Amazon's Fire tablets are the latest devices to get Alexa, the company's answer to Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana

Amazon’s Alexa is present in millions of living rooms by way of the Echo speaker and the Fire TV. Now, Amazon’s virtual assistant is coming to tablets with new $89.99 Fire HD 8, the company announced Thursday.

Amazon is also pushing Alexa to last year’s Fire HD 8 tablet as well as the $49.99 Fire and $229.99 Fire 10 through a free software update over the coming months.

The new Fire HD 8 will be up for pre-order starting Thursday in 16GB or 32GB storage options.

Amazon’s Alexa has been quietly evolving from a basic personal assistant to a flourishing mobile platform over the past several months. Initially introduced as a means to control smart home products or retrieve answers to questions with your voice, Alexa now boasts more than 1,000 “skills.” These skills allow the assistant to interact with third party apps (i.e. order a pizza from Dominos or summon an Uber.). Apple has since announced that it will be opening up Siri to third-party developers as well when its iOS 10 update launches this month.

Bringing Alexa to Fire tablets gives Amazon a way to introduce the technology to a wider range of people while also making it more mobile. While Amazon’s Tap speaker is portable, other Alexa-powered devices like the standard Echo, Dot, and Fire TV must be plugged in, restricting how and where they can be used. The Wall Street Journal reported in May that Amazon had been working on an Alexa tablet-like computer that would allow users to call up websites, videos, or images even when “their hands are covered in flour.”

Alexa aside, the new $89.99 Fire HD 8 is said to offer 12 hours of battery life, 50% more RAM than its predecessor, and a 1,280×800 resolution screen. Amazon is also claiming that the tablet is twice as durable as the iPad Mini 4. As is the case with many of Amazon’s mobile products, it will come with features like X-Ray, Second Screen, and Blue Shade.

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