As if Amazon has nothing better to do, it's now going into the unified communications business to compete with the likes of Cisco Systems, Polycom, Avaya, Microsoft, Mitel and several others.
The Seattle-based web services and retail megacompany on Feb. 14 launched Amazon Chime, a new, freemium-based unified communications service that it claims delivers "frustration-free meetings with exceptional video and audio quality."
The always-finicky telecommunications market will soon decide whether that statement is true or not true.
Using this service, customers can start video and audio meetings with a single click, so they can host or join a meeting, chat and share content and screens with a synchronized experience across desktops, iOS, and Android devices, the company said.
Conferencing Largely Has Been Problematic
Many concall and video-conferencing systems are problematic. They can be clunky and hard to use, video is often grainy, the system disconnects frequently, audio quality is poor (depending upon the connection), they require long PINs to enter and join a call and have second-rate mobile features and apps.
Mostly they are only good at one thing (such as voice calls, video conferencing, screen sharing, or instant messaging), so users often have to toggle between several different tools.
To view a video of Chime in action, go here.
Chime calls all participants when a meeting starts, so joining a meeting requires only clicking a button in the app--no PIN required. When there is background noise on calls (think about how often somebody has to say things like "could you please stop typing so close to the speaker") or somebody joins or drops mid-call, there's no longer any mystery--Chime shows a visual roster of all attendees. Any attendee has the power to put an end to background noise by muting a noisy line.
Chime keeps meetings and chats synchronized across devices, so users can join meetings from anywhere via Android, iOS, Mac and Windows apps (and switch from mobile to desktop, or app to app whenever needed). Chime can be integrated with existing corporate directories and provides IT administrators the ability to manage identities and control access across an organization.
Freemium Model, No Up-Front Investment
Chime requires no upfront investments, complicated deployment, or ongoing maintenance--it's a cloud service. Customers can simply download the application and get started using the service in minutes.
Key business benefits include:
--Chime uses noise-canceling wideband audio to deliver high-quality audio and crisp, clear HD video to make it easier to have real conversations in a meeting. Video works well across all user devices and many conference room video systems with no upgrades required, the company said.
--Dialing into meetings has been simplified. Instead of trying to type in hard-to-remember multi-digit pins, Chime calls participants when it is time for the meeting to start and lets them join with a single click. Those who are running behind can tap a "running late" button to automatically notify everyone in the meeting.
--Once in the meeting, Chime provides a visual roster that allows users to see exactly who has joined, who is running late and who can't make it. It also allows everyone to see who is talking or where background noise is coming from -- no more barking dogs or loud typists -- and anyone on the call can easily mute that participant.
--Chime was built for mobile use. It has apps for Android, iOS, Mac and Windows.
--Chime makes it easy to collaborate. When in a meeting, anyone can share their screen instantly, without asking a host to "pass the ball," or jump to a different application. For ongoing collaboration outside of meetings, Amazon Chime offers chat rooms that allow people to work together in a single place, securely storing chat history and files for ongoing reference.
Early users and/or partners with Amazon for Chime include Brooks Brothers, Level 3 and Vonage, the company said.
Phillip Miller, Director of IT at Brooks Brothers, said that "we normally have to proactively push adoption for new tools to employees, but after starting a pilot of Amazon Chime, we quickly saw interest grow, with internal adoption now reaching 90 percent of our corporate staff without any formal rollout or training."
Amazon Chime will soon be available through APN partners Level 3 and Vonage. With availability scheduled for the second quarter of 2017, Level 3 will add Amazon Chime to its suite of unified communications and collaboration solutions, providing enterprises with another powerful solution to help simplify and enhance communications.
Also scheduled to be available in the second quarter of 2017, Vonage will provide Chime Pro Edition to its business customers at no additional cost, delivering a richer conferencing, video, and collaboration experience integrated with Vonage's full range of unified communications solutions that are backed by the quality, strength, and reliability of the Vonage network.
Chime is now available in three versions: Chime Basic Edition is free and lets users attend meetings, call another person using voice or video, and use Chime's messaging and chat capabilities.
Chime Plus Edition adds user management, such as the ability to manage an entire e-mail domain, disable accounts, or configure Active Directory, as well as 1GB per user of message retention--all for $2.50 per user/per month.
Chime Pro Edition adds the ability to host meetings with screen sharing and video for up to 100 users and also includes support for mobile, laptop, and in-room video along with unlimited VoIP support. It costs $15 per user/per month.
To get started using Amazon Chime, go here.