Amazon launches video conference call service Chime, takes on rivals WebEx, Skype for Business

Can the e-commerce giant's foray into communications meet with success?
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has launched Chime, a video conferencing tool designed to take on competitors such as Skype for Business and Cisco's WebEx.


On Tuesday, the cloud infrastructure provider announced Amazon Chime, calling the tool a "new unified communications service [which] delivers frustration-free meetings with exceptional video and audio quality."

Chime uses one-click dialing and noise-cancelling wideband audio to deliver clear audio alongside HD video quality.

The video conferencing tool can be accessed through Android and iOS mobile apps, as well as the Mac and Windows operating systems on standard PCs.

If one device fails, users also have the ability to switch between devices even as the meeting is going on -- and you do not need to remember a long PIN to join such calls.

When it is time for the meeting to begin, Chime will automatically call you. If you're running late, you can automatically notify everyone else registered in the meeting as part of a digital "roster," which also displays the latest users to join a video call -- and who cannot make it.

One constant annoyance in video conferencing is one or two attendees who -- for one reason or another -- have a lot of background noise, chatter or distracting sounds. Amazon has considered this issue and has also included a "mute" button for individual participants.

Sharing content has become a fixed feature of video conferencing software and tools. If Amazon is going to compete, this feature has to be on offer, too. As a result, Chime allows users to share their screens quickly, join messaging chat rooms for collaborative projects and will store chat history and files for referencing later.

As noted by Geek Wire, Amazon's quiet acquisition of San Francisco-based video conferencing service Biba last year appears to have been the first indication of the firm's intentions. If you visit Biba's website now, the company says that "Biba has now been replaced with Amazon Chime."

Amazon Chime is available in three different options. The first, Amazon Chime Basic Edition, is free and allows users to attend meetings, call other people, and use messaging and chat capabilities.

Amazon Chime Plus Edition, on offer for $2.50 per user per month, adds user management features and 1GB storage for messages and chat logs.

The third option, Amazon Chime Pro Edition, adds the ability to host meetings with screen sharing and video -- likely a must for enterprise players -- and also includes support for mobile, laptop and in-room video streaming, alongside unlimited VoIP support for $15 per user, per month.

"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," said Gene Farrell, Vice President of Enterprise Applications at AWS. "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."

AWS partners Level 3 and Vonage plan to make the video conferencing tool available to clients soon. Vonage will provide the premium edition of Chime to business customers for free, and Level 3 will add Chime to the firm's enterprise solutions portfolio.

If AWS is going to muscle in on the communications industry, then these kinds of partners will be crucial in luring business away from rival vendors already firmly established with strong user bases.

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