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At a glance
The cost: The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX starts at $379 for 16 gigabytes of memory, while the 7-inch starts at $229 also with 16 gigabytes.
The delivery: Buyers can order them starting Oct. 2. The 7-inch will ship Oct. 18, while the 8.9-inch will ship starting Nov. 7.
Associated Press
The new 8.9-inch Kindle HDX tablet, left, sits next to its new 7-inch model. Both are faster and lighter than earlier models.

Amazon slims down, speeds up Kindle tablets

– Amazon is refreshing its lineup of tablet computers with new devices called Kindle Fire HDX, which are significantly faster and lighter than the previous generation.

The 7-inch and 8.9-inch versions also have sharper, more colorful displays than older models, and both have more pixels per inch than the latest iPad.

To help those who are unfamiliar with tablets, the models come with a feature called “Mayday,” which allows users to get a live customer service representative in a tiny video window. The helpers can explain new features or troubleshoot problems while guiding users with on-screen hand scribbles. They can even take control of the device from afar.

CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the feature Tuesday, saying it is “completely unique” and takes advantage of Amazon’s massive cloud computing and customer service infrastructure. It also builds on Amazon.com Inc.’s reputation for excellent customer service.

“You shouldn’t have to be afraid of your device,” Bezos said.

In a demo, Bezos asked an on-screen customer service rep to recommend a hot app. The rep mentioned “Angry Birds: Star Wars II.” Bezos also received instructions on how to set time limits on various activities for children.

While the new Kindles are upgraded in several ways, Amazon also cut the price on what will be its entry-level 7-inch tablet, the Kindle Fire HD with 8 gigabytes of memory, to $139. The base HD model previously cost $199, but had 16 gigabytes of memory. Stephen Baker, a consumer technology analyst with research firm NPD Group, said the price cut to the Kindle Fire HD will do more to help Amazon compete in the tablet market than the added features on the newer models.

“That’s where that model needs to be priced,” Baker said, explaining that there are numerous manufacturers with tablets with screens that measure 7 inches diagonally – all priced around $150. “A big focus in that 7-inch category is just price.”

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