AWS Takes On Skype, Cisco with New UC Offering

Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched a new enterprise unified communications (UC) service this week named Chime, pitting it against the likes of Microsoft's Skype for Business and Cisco's WebEx.

Chime aims to alleviate organizations' common frustrations with online video conferences, chat sessions, voice calls and content sharing. As a fully managed service from the AWS cloud, Chime obviates the need to worry about security or to deploy and manage complicated infrastructure and software. It's also reportedly easier to get started in an online video conference, for example.

"Meetings start on time, and they're easy to join," AWS says on the Chime Web site. "Meetings call you, and with a single tap or click, you can join or notify participants that you're running late. A visual roster shows who is in the meeting and who is running late, and allows anyone to mute background noise. Amazon Chime automatically reconnects you if you get dropped. Crystal clear audio and HD video keep you focused on the discussion."

AWS spokesperson Jeff Barr said in a blog post Monday that the new offering works on PC and Mac desktops and on iOS and Android mobile devices, and it can hand users off from one to another amid a communications session.

Along with the ability to call participants about an upcoming meeting and let them respond with a single tap or click, Barr listed other benefits such as:

  • Meeting roster: Instead of endless "who just joined" queries, Chime provides a visual roster of attendees, late-comers and those who skipped out entirely. It also provides broadly accessible mute controls in case another participant is typing or their dog is barking.

  • Easy sharing: Collaborating is a core competency for Chime. Meeting participants can share their screens as desired, with no need to ask for permission. Within Chime's chat rooms, participants can work together and create a shared history that is stored in encrypted fashion.

  • Clear calls: Chime delivers high-quality noise-cancelled audio and crisp, clear HD video that works across all user devices and with most conference room video systems.

Chime is free to try for 30 days, after which time users can continue for free on the Basic plan or pay to upgrade. The Basic level allows users to make 1:1 voice and video calls, and to use chat and chat rooms, on all of their devices. It doesn't include higher-end features such as screen sharing, remote desktop control, the ability to schedule and host meetings, the ability to record meetings and several more. The next tier, Plus, costs $2.50 per user per month and adds the ability to share screens during meetings, and enables integration with a user's company directory. The highest-end version, Pro, costs $15 per user per month and offers the full set of features for online meetings, including scheduling and hosting meetings, recording meetings, and personalized meeting URLs, for up to 100 people.

For comparison, Microsoft's rival UC offering, Skype for Business, comes bundled with its Office 365 business productivity suite in packages that range from $5 or $12.50 per user per month (for small businesses) to $12, $20 or $35 per user per month (for enterprises).

Chime is available to download, test and purchase now, and will also be offered through AWS partners Vonage and Level 3 Communications in the second quarter.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.