Amazon built a Fire Keyboard, which connects wirelessly to the HDX 8.9 tablet via Bluetooth.
By MIKE ISAAC
It has been said that people don’t want tablets, they want iPads.
For years, Amazon, the online retail giant, has been trying to change that.
The company’s latest effort comes in a refresh of its Kindle tablets and e-readers, announced Wednesday evening, with a set of internal hardware improvements and updated software features that Amazon hopes will woo new crowds to its line of devices.
Amazon’s strategy: Go after different types of people with many different devices.
Take the updated Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 tablet. It now includes a powerful 2.5 GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm and comes with the WPS Office app, essentially a way to create and edit documents from the tablet. The app is integrated with Amazon’s Cloud Drive, which will back up documents on Amazon’s servers. Amazon has also built a Fire Keyboard, which connects wirelessly to the HDX 8.9 tablet via Bluetooth.
The aim here, it seems, is to go after the segment of the market that wants to use a tablet as a workstation, instead of toting around a laptop. In other words, it’s the same audience that Microsoft has tried to court with its Surface tablet.
“We have all the power and performance you need to multitask,” said Jonathan Oakes, a director of product management for Amazon, at a media event on Wednesday. “Now we’re just making it easier to switch between all the things people want to do.”
The HDX will cost $379, which is also about the cost of Microsoft’s Surface RT, depending on which model you buy.
But modeling the new Kindle after the Surface is questionable, as the Surface has hardly flown off the shelves. Microsoft took a $900 million write-down on unsold Surface RTs last year.
For what it’s worth, the HDX also comes with a sound system upgrade, courtesy of Dolby, as well as improved graphics processing and a better display, which could appeal to media-hungry consumers. So it’s not all business.
Amazon isn’t just aiming at grown-ups. The Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition, for instance, aims for the opposite end of the market.
For $149, Amazon offers an updated 6-inch Kindle Fire HD tablet with front-and-rear-facing cameras, an improved display and a better microprocessor. It also comes in an array of pretty colors, much like Apple’s iPods.
The hook, however, is the guarantee that comes with the device. If your child breaks the tablet, Amazon will replace it for up to two years. The shockproof rubber case that comes in the package will probably help protect against that, too.
The device also allows for full access to “FreeTime Unlimited,” Amazon’s child-friendly section of videos, apps and games.
So for about $50 more than the cost of a new Kindle Fire HD, you are essentially buying an extended warranty for a nice child’s toy.
Finally, for those who just want to read on their tablet, Amazon has updated its classic line of e-readers. The refresh includes a new $79 Kindle — the lowest-price option — as well as a new high-end model, the Voyage, a thin, lightweight reader with an improved front light and touch-screen capability. The Voyage is not cheap; at $199, it is Amazon’s most expensive e-reader.
Amazon’s fall line comes months before the holiday season, when manufacturers like Samsung, Lenovo and Apple will all push their tablets heavily to gift-seekers.
The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 comes preloaded with a documents app that is integrated with Amazon’s Cloud Drive.Credit
But while Amazon has heavily marketed its Fire Tablet products, how successful the company has been in winning over consumers is unclear. Amazon has never broken out its tablet sales numbers.
Estimates from analysts, however, show Amazon’s tablet sales dwarfed by its competition. Amazon shipped an estimated 200,000 tablets in the second quarter of 2014, 22nd among tablet manufacturers worldwide, according to IDC, a research firm. For comparison, Apple sold 13.3 million iPads over the same period.
Kinley Pearsall, an Amazon spokeswoman, declined to provide an exact number for the company’s Kindle sales. However, Ms. Pearsall said that IDC’s estimated numbers were “way off and way low.”
Ultimately, the tablets are a means to an end, a portal to Amazon’s major business of selling goods and services and shipping them to customers around the world. In some cases, Amazon is probably making little to no money on each tablet sold, but it counts on making up for that by selling content like digital books and movies to tablet shoppers.
Still, to bolster online shopping, Amazon needs to sell more tablets. And that is easier said than done.
The new Kindle Fall lineup was available for pre-order on Amazon’s site beginning Wednesday evening.
David Streitfeld contributed reporting.