Consumers know Amazon best as an online reseller and for its line of Kindle devices, but the tech giant continues to develop products for business users.
On the enterprise side, Amazon is better known for its cloud service division, Amazon Web Services (AWS), which powers many Websites, including those of Netflix and Unilever. On Jan. 28, Amazon announced its latest business product, a cloud-based email and calendaring service called WorkMail that one analyst said could be the first of many follow-on offerings.
While WorkMail won't compete directly with dominant consumer products like Gmail and Yahoo email because it's strictly focused on workplace email, there are still plenty of entrenched competitors, including Microsoft's Office 365 (specifically, Microsoft Exchange Online) and Google Apps for Work.
Amazon will charge a monthly subscription fee of $4 per inbox, similar to what Microsoft and Google charge. The new Amazon service includes 50G of storage per user.
Significantly, Amazon isn't hellbent on trying to convince corporate customers to replace Microsoft Outlook or other email front-end services they currently use; rather it aims to replace the back-end services those companies offer with services powered by Amazon's network of servers, which, among other things, will encrypt emails to help ensure their security.
Company officials said the advantage is companies won't have to invest in their own email servers and management software as that will also be handled by Amazon—which, among other things, will encrypt emails to help ensure their security. Amazon said WorkMail users will be able to send and receive email, manage contacts, share calendars and book resources using their current email applications, such as Microsoft Outlook, their Web browser or their native iOS and Android email apps.
Amazon is touting WorkMail as offering better security and simplicity than current offerings.
"Customers have repeatedly asked us for a business email and calendaring service that is more cost-effective and simpler to manage than their on-premises solution, more secure than the cloud-based offerings available today, and that is backed by the same best-in-class infrastructure platform on which they're reliably running so many of their current, and future, workloads," Peter De Santis, vice president, AWS Compute Services, said in a statement. "We built Amazon WorkMail to address these requests and to help businesses achieve agility and cost savings by letting AWS manage the non-differentiated heavy lifting involved in corporate email and calendaring."
On the security front, Amazon said companies will be able to choose Amazon data centers in specific geographic regions for storing their messages, and companies will hold the encryption keys.
Bob O'Donnell, analyst and founder of TECHnalysis Research, said Amazon's move fits with a "pay for privacy" security trend he thinks is inevitable.
"People are starting to recognize that there's a need to have some kind of private email that they have a high degree of confidence is secure," O'Donnell told eWEEK. He speculates that Amazon may have bigger moves in mind to extend its secure email to a broader set of identity-management services that would simplify the process of users ensuring their transactions and overall online presence is secure.
While social media is becoming increasingly popular as a communications medium, particularly among younger workers, traditional email still rules the workplace. Technology research firm The Radicati Group estimates that the majority of email traffic in 2014 was generated by business users—a staggering 108.7 billion emails sent and received per day. In 2014, business users sent and received, on average, an estimated 121 emails a day, and that number is expected to grow to 140 emails a day by 2018. The Radicati Group forecasts that email use by businesses overall will account for more than 139.4 billion emails sent and received per day by 2018.