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Amazon rolls out Alexa on its Fire tablets

The cloud-based voice service is now available on Amazon's most recent Fire tablets, as promised.

Alexa is now available for Fire tablets via an over-the-air software update.

David Carnoy/CNET

When Amazon released its new Fire HD 8 tablet last month, it promised that Alexa, the cloud-based voice service, would be added to Fire tablets in the coming weeks through a free over-the-air software update. That update is now available to owners of the 2016 Fire HD 8, as well as 2015's entry-level Fire and Fire HD 10 and 8.

To activate Alexa, you press the on-screen home button, rather than simply saying her name, as you do with the Echo speakers. You can use voice commands to tell Alexa to play music, launch games, read audiobooks, deliver weather reports, turn on smart-home lights and more.

You can also link your Fire tablet to an Echo device. If you enable this feature in the settings menu, what you ask Alexa on the Echo will appear on the Fire tablet (the Fire appears to be off but is really in a special standby mode). For instance, if you ask the Echo for a weather report, Alexa will tell you the weather and that report will pop up on the Fire's screen. The Fire and Echo do have to be on the same wireless network for this feature to work.

At launch Alexa's skill set on Fire tablets will be somewhat limited, but Amazon says it will be continually adding new "skills," its version of apps. Currently, Amazon's Video app doesn't have Alexa integration and there's no Alexa support for Spotify music playback -- she currently works with Amazon Music, Pandora and iHeart Radio.

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