WHEN THE ECHO SHOW LAUNCHED earlier this year, some people quickly spotted that Amazon had invented the tablet computer, only with fewer of those pesky features people were using. True, this time you could make idle small talk with said tablet, but for most people, this was hardly what you'd call a burning ambition.
Still, the proof of concept was there: not only had people proved that the expression "the walls have ears" could be repurposed as some kind of aspirational lifestyle choice, but people were also happy for said walls to have a pair of eyes too.
For those refuseniks who still don't have Alexa as a permanent guest in their homes, Amazon has found a simpler way of inviting itself. The new Amazon Fire HD 8 is a hugely modest change overall - improving the resolution of the front-facing camera you don't use and adding support for an improbable 400GB microSD card you won't buy - but it does let your tablet moonlight as an Echo Show when not in use.
To do this, you'll need to buy the Show Mode Dock and case for £40 (8in) or £50 (10in), due to be released as a standalone later in the year - though it can be bought as a bundle with the tablet right now for £110. The tablet sits in the case, which magnetically clips to the dock which charges it while automatically making the Fire tablet think it's an Echo Show. Ask it questions, tell it to put on music, get it to put on videos: all the usual functions for people who find the accuracy of finger input too mundanely convenient.
However, thanks to Amazon's continued passive-aggressive barney with Google, Alexa won't be able to show you anything on YouTube.
Given the Echo Show cost £199.99 before Amazon mysteriously pulled it from the site this week, this represents something of a bargain. The new 8in tablet plus dock goes for £120 (or £10 less if you buy them together), meaning that with the dock you're still saving £80/£90 overall.
This may seem like an oversight on Amazon's part, but it does follow the company's traditional model: make new technology, then drive down the price until it's in every home locking people into the company's money-printing ecosystem. They did it with Kindle, they did it with Fire TV and now they're doing it with Alexa… µ
Oh and it'll also help give aural pleasure
But it might still not be enough to make virtual reality super appealing
And a ridiculous competition
Now you can talk to your silly-looking earbuds too