Amazon Web Services, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Amazon.com, is expanding into unified communications with the launch of an online video-conferencing service, called Amazon Chime, featuring voice, video, and chat communication. Chats are synchronized across devices, so users can switch between desktops and mobile devices at any time, even in the middle of a meeting.
Amazon said that the Chime service can be used for online meetings, video conferencing, voice calls, chats and content sharing, with all services available via an app for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac. The service is available in three editions. Basic allows one-on-one voice and video calls and the use of chat and chat rooms on all devices. Amazon Chime Plus adds the ability to share a user’s screen during meetings, as well as integration with a company directory.
Amazon Chime Pro offers a full set of features for online meetings, including scheduling and hosting meetings, recording meetings and personalized meeting URLs for up to 100 people. Pricing starts at US $2.50 per user per month, ranging up to US $15.00 per user per month, and users will have the freedom to change or cancel their subscription at any time.
Amazon’s competitive challenge to ISPs officially dates back over 10 years, to 2006, when it launched cloud services under the name of Amazon Web Services. AWS’ cloud services have developed rapidly in the past three years, and it is now reported to be a profitable, US $5 billion business. With the launch of Chime, Amazon enters the VoIP space previously dominated by OTT service providers and mobile operators.
Chime’s internet-based chat and voice calling services will face stiff competition from OTT players such as Microsoft-owned Skype and Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which are already very well established globally, but Amazon also has global reach, to say the least, and its massive customer base will be a powerful asset when it comes to attracting users.
But when it comes to video-conferencing, Amazon will likely pose an even stronger challenge to telecom operators, mobile and fixed, because of the relatively high level of dissatisfaction with existing solutions. Gene Farrell, vice president of enterprise applications at AWS, said in a statement, “It’s pretty hard to find people who actually like the technology they use for meetings today. Most meeting applications or services are hard to use, deliver bad audio and video, require constant switching between multiple tools to do everything they want, and are way too expensive.”
With the Pro version of this service, Amazon is directly targeting operators in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) sphere, and if the price turns out to be right and if the mega-merchandiser’s cloud tech-nology delivers high enough quality of service, operators and other incumbents will have to get creative to meet the challenge.