New Kindle Fire HDX's tech support button could push IT to yell 'Mayday!'

'Mayday button' poses security issues for IT; CTO, analysts suggest letting IT customize tool so it can work with corporate help desk

With the tap of a button on any of the new Kindle Fire HDX tablets, Amazon promises that a frustrated user can get free tech support and tips from a live agent via video, hopefully within 15 seconds.

The function, called the "Mayday button," allows an Amazon expert to appear in video on the screen of the Fire HDX and "co-pilot you through any feature by drawing on your screen, walking you through how do something yourself, or doing it for you," said CEO Jeff Bezos.

Amazon announced the new 7-in. and 8.9-in. Kindle Fire HDX tablets on Wednesday. The smaller tablet will go on sale Oct. 18 for $229 and larger on Nov. 7 for $379.

Amazon has prepped three upcoming TV commercials to show a user interacting with an Amazon agent named Amy.

The Amazon Mayday agent can't see the user via any video interaction, but can see what's on his or her tablet display, and can draw highlights on the display to point out buttons and features and can navigate to other areas in the user interface.

Amazon calls the 24 x 7 Mayday button "revolutionary on-device tech support" and pointed out that Amazon has a strong record of achieving customer support kudos from the likes of JD Power and others.

No doubt, many end users will love the new feature.

At the same time, though, IT managers might cringe, and leave the room yelling, "Mayday!" A bring-your-own-device employee could press the Mayday button when confidential or otherwise sensitive business documents are open on an HDX screen, potentially exposing corporate secrets that could be shared with rivals.

Given the security issues, some analysts say Mayday is clearly intended for consumer use, not for workers. However, other analysts, and an IT executive, say Mayday could be useful in the workplace if the tech support request were somehow routed to the company's internal tech support organization rather than to Amazon.

"IT will never embrace the Mayday function until it is proven secure enough," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

"Given that Amazon has no enterprise client experience or reputation, this [proof] won't happen any time soon. IT will simply shut down the Web address [to Mayday support] just like they do with other services they don't want inside the firewall," Moorhead added.

Kindle Fire HDX tablet users will be able to turn off the Mayday function, or simply not use it if if they don't want the Amazon expert to see family photos or other sensitive material. But IT shops aren't likely to trust users to avoid using Mayday when sensitive documents and materials appear on a display, analysts said.

Ultimately, the question comes down to IT distrust of any third party, including Amazon.

Some analysts noted that if the tablet is owned by the worker, IT shops can't govern personal use and, therefore, use of the Mayday button. It's a classic problem for the many IT shops now dealing with the evolving Bring Your Own Device paradigm, analysts said.

Kindle Fire HDX
With the Mayday button, users of the Kindle Fire HDX can talk with a live help desk person. (Photo: Business Wire)
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