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Hands-on with Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon's next-generation 7 and 9-inch tablets

Andy Ihnatko | Sept. 26, 2013
The new Fire tablets include 'X-Ray' features for second-screen TV viewing and a 'Mayday' button for real-time video tech support.

Jeff Bezos showed me the Mayday feature in a conference room. It appeared to be one of those "pride and joy" moments that you sometimes see from a CEO when he finally gets to talk publicly about something that genuinely excites him. He ran through an extended demo and even asked the remote helper for esoteric recommendations: "What game should I get?"

"I am so terrified for your people when this feature goes live," I said, thinking about every tech support session I've given to every friend, family member, and friend of a family member ever.

Live video support in less than 14 seconds
Press a button. Get connected to a live person (again, the target time is less than 14 seconds). Ask him or her anything. It would appear that these people will field questions of a "what game should I get?" nature by helping them find and use the Kindle's built-in features for producing personalized recommendations. This rather than talking about personal adventures playing Angry Birds Star Wars 2.

Amazon already has a battle-tested international support system. Yes, it will have specialists ready to cover the whole spectrum of languages, and the Mayday feature will be available in every country where the Fire HDX is sold.

Still, it seems like an open-ended invitation for the angry, the insane, the lonely, and every other incidental character appearing in Randy Newman's song catalog to come out and dance.

And then there are the inevitable privacy concerns. Let's say that you're having a problem exporting the photos you took using your 8.9-inch HDX's spiffy new camera. You don't want this stranger at Amazon to see photos of your kids at the beach.

I asked about this scenario—while a helper was onscreen, actually. Well, it turns out you can ask the helper to close his or her view of your screen while you do whatever you need to do (like enter a password, or hide some personal messages from your Inbox).

It seems like a half-solution. A user is going to want to feel as though he or she has full privacy controls. I would have been more pleased to see a big, angry-looking toggle switch that I could tap at any time to shut the helper's eyes.

It's worth pointing out that Mayday features only activate when a session has been initiated by the user. Otherwise, it's not possible for Amazon to observe your screen or hear anything going on around your device.

Of course, it would be incredible if Amazon were lying about something so... actionable. The reality isn't the problem, anyway: It's the perception, and Mayday is of no use to anybody who's afraid to engage it.

 

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