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Amazon leverages AWS to enter the business communications market with Chime

AWS Chime screengrab

© AWS

  • Unified communications service for audio and video collaboration
  • Cross-platform support and three tiers of services
  • Service will compete against Cisco’s WebEx, Skype and GoToMeeting
  • AWS believes Chime is “one third the cost” of traditional solutions

Amazon is the latest webscale company to enter the crowded yet still relatively immature business communication collaboration market. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is leveraging its capabilities as the world’s dominant public cloud provider to launch Chime, a unified communications service for business customers. It says Amazon Chime enables customers to start high-quality video and audio meetings with one-click, allowing customers to host or join a meeting, chat, and share content and screens with a seamless, synchronised experience across Windows and Mac desktops, and iOS and Android smartphones.

Amazon believes most current meetings solutions are “disappointing, clunky and hard to use, the video is grainy and disconnects frequently, the audio quality is poor, there’s constant background noise and it’s impossible to know who’s causing it, they require long PINs to enter and join a call, and have second-rate mobile features and apps.” Oh, and “they are way too expensive”. Damning appraisals, but it’s hard to disagree.

“It’s pretty hard to find people who actually like the technology they use for meetings today,” said Gene Farrell, VP Enterprise Applications at AWS. “Amazon Chime delivers frustration-free meetings, allowing users to be productive from anywhere. And with no ongoing maintenance or management fees, Amazon Chime is a great choice for companies that are looking for a solution to meetings that their employees will love to use.”

Race to the bottom?

There are three pricing tiers for Chime. The basic solution is free, but is limited to just two participants. A Plus option comes in at $2.50 per user per month and adds screen sharing and corporate director access, but still has a limit of just two people at any one time. The Pro tier offers the full feature set and extends the maximum limit to 100, but the price also jumps substantially to $15 per user per month. Still, Amazon believes Chime is “one-third the cost of traditional solutions”.

Amazon Chime will be available through its partners Level 3 and Vonage during the second quarter of the year. Level 3 will add Amazon Chime to its suite of unified communications and collaboration solutions for enterprise customers, while Vonage will provide the Chime Pro Edition to its business customers at no additional cost.

“Enterprises need communication and collaboration tools, like Amazon Chime, that can break down organisational silos, and evolve with the business,” said Anthony Christie, Chief Marketing Officer at Level 3. “With Amazon Chime, delivered by Level 3, our customers have a clear advantage. They’ll have access to an agile collaboration platform, powered by AWS, with the reliability and security of Level 3’s global network.”

Amazon will not only be competing against Microsoft with its Skype platform, but is going head-to head with Cisco’s WebEx and GoToMeeting, who between them pretty much tie up the majority of this market. Plus, Google is currently re-imagining its Hangouts as a business-focused solution. It’s questionable whether Amazon’s dominance of the cloud market with AWS can help it gain significant market share in this space, but its history of competitively priced services may just be enough to start a price war where scale and deep pockets will eventually pay off.

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