Is Amazon prodding SaaS stalwart Microsoft with Chime?

With the launch of Chime, is Amazon marking an entry into cloud-based communication arena, currently pioneered by stalwart players like Microsoft?

Amazon Chime

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A tech savvy humanBOT, Sharmistha is a professional writer

Last week, Amazon introduced the world to Chime, a unified video and voice collaboration tool, to simplify communications in corporate settings. Made available as an app on iOS, Android, Windows, as well as Mac, the platform runs on AWS claiming to boost your experience beyond VoIP calling and video messaging.

While this marks a jump (and a high one) into the communications technology space, the real question is whether Amazon is directly challenging SaaS leader Microsoft with this launch.

“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, Enterprise Applications, AWS, during the launch of Chime.

A SaaS entry?

As of now, Amazon stands as the undisputed leader in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), while Microsoft occupies the top rack in the Software as a Service (SaaS) segment. A report by Synergy Research Group released last September even noted that the latter has overtaken Salesforce to become the overall enterprise SaaS market leader.

The Seattle-based company has been (quietly) launching workplace-focused products over the past few years. For example, WorkSpaces, a virtual desktop computing service was introduced in 2013. The next year, WorkDocs, a file storage and sharing service, originally known as Amazon Zocalo, was launched. And then came WorkMail in 2015 for secure email and calendaring. Hat trick!

But the game had just begun!

Chime vs. Skype

Now comes Chime, that claims to allow customers to host or join a meeting, chat, and share content and screens with a seamless, synchronized experience across desktops, iOS, and Android devices, all in the same platform. Sounds familiar? Bingo! It is an awful lot like Skype.

And there’s more. Just like Skype comes in 3 versions – basic version of Skype, Skype for Business and Skype Meetings, Chime is also launched in 3 editions. A basic edition which can be availed free of cost, the Plus Edition priced at $2.50 per user, per month, and the Chime Pro Edition that costs $15 per user, per month.

Also, like Skype, Chime offers mobile and desktop apps, and keeps meetings and chats synchronized across devices, so users can join meetings from anywhere via their remote devices. But one thing that does stand out is its ease of usage without having to shuffle between multiple apps. For example,

Is Amazon ready to compete yet?

Clearly, Amazon has the enterprise IT services in mind to build the Chime market. And hence its collaboration tools has to compete with the likes of Skype for Business and Cisco’s WebEx, while its chat and messaging features are a head-on against Slack and Microsoft Teams.

But being a pioneer in cloud technologies, one thing Amazon is well-versed with is requirements of the underlying infrastructure used by application providers and the know-hows of the SaaS industry. This was clear when Amazon installed the Mayday function on the Kindle Fire three years ago. This provided live video support with screen share on its low-cost device, where the support personnel could even see and draw directly on the tablet if you let them.

And not to forget, the company will leave no stones and will leverage the growing importance of AWS to enterprise customers to push this product.

In addition, with the acquisition of Biba last fall, a startup was making a mark in developing audio, video and web conferencing capabilities in a single app, Amazon had already floated rumors about the company’s plans to step into the video messaging arena.

So while the company is launching into the much crowded cloud-based communication sea, its sails are definitely well-adjusted to slide with the wind. As to whether this move can surpass other boats that have been sailing for longer, that will solely depend on its velocity of service additions.

As a wise man once said:

“It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.”

– George William Curtis

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