Amazon tablets get ‘beaming” power

Amazon’s latest tablets are no more than a month old, but they’re already getting a significant update.

The company announced on Monday that it has released an update to the operating system that underlies its Kindle Fire devices. With the update, Amazon’s latest tablets will get a host of new features including the ability to “beam” movies to a television and allow users to connect to corporate networks.

The new features generally aren’t groundbreaking, but they help to address some of the shortcomings I found when I tested the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 tablet for my column this week. While the Kindle Fire tablets are great at connecting consumers with Amazon’s content, they have been less useful as general purpose tablets than Apple’s iPad series or those devices based on a standard version of Google’s Android software. In part that’s because those tablets have been able to offer more features of interest to broader audiences.

But the update helps to bring the latest Kindle Fire tablets closer to parity with their rivals. The new beaming feature, for example, is similar to Apple’s AirPlay technology, which allows users to send movies to their TV via the Apple TV device. In Amazon’s case, users can beam movies or television shows directly to certain Samsung televisions or to other TVs via Sony’s PlayStation 3 console. Later this year, they’ll be able to beam such videos to a PlayStation 4 device.

Other new features in the update include:

  • The ability to connect with corporate networks via VPN or other technologies;
  • Integration of features from book recommendation site Goodreads into the Kindle eReader app, including the ability to share quotes from a book and see what friends are reading;
  • Wireless printing of pictures, documents, email and other files;
  • The ability to organize books, magazines and apps into folder-like collections.

I’m particularly excited about the voice-to-speech dictation feature. Amazon isn’t promising that you’ll have something akin to Siri or Google Now. But even simple dictation can be very useful; I often find speaking my messages or email to be easier than trying to type them on an on-screen keyboard.

Unfortunately, the latest update is only available for the newest Kindle Fire devices: The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX, the large-screened Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and the newest 7-inch Kindle Fire HD. Users should receive the update automatically in coming weeks or can download it manually from Amazon’s site.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.


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