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AWS launches Amazon Chime, challenges Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Skype

Amazon Web Services has introduced Amazon Chime, a communications-as-a-service product that could become a strong rival to Cisco WebEx and Microsoft Skype for Business.

Amazon Web Services has launched a video conferencing service that could one day become a strong competitor to Microsoft Skype for Business, Cisco WebEx and other leading products in the communications-as-a-service market.

AWS introduced Amazon Chime this week as an online service available through the company's infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform. Chime provides several services, including online meetings, video conferencing, voice calls, chat and content sharing.

All of Amazon Chime's capabilities are available in other products from established vendors, such as Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya and Mitel. But despite the competition, AWS has the financial resources and the clout with enterprises to grab share in the unified communications and collaboration market, said Bern Elliot, an analyst at Gartner.

"I wouldn't rule them out in the long run," Elliot said.

AWS strengths

AWS, a unit of retailer Amazon, has the advantage of offering the service on the leading IaaS platform, which gives the company immediate credibility with enterprises, Elliot said. Also, AWS is pricing Amazon Chime in a way to make it attractive to companies.

What's unusual is the pay-per-use pricing model. Companies are charged each month based on the number of people who use the service. The plan with security and management tools critical to enterprises costs $15 a user per month.

Paying according to actual use is different from Cisco, Microsoft and other rivals that sell licenses for a certain number of people, some of whom may not use the service very often.

"A lot of enterprises are wasting licenses," Elliot said. "They have 1,000 employees, they buy 1,000 licenses and a lot of them go unused."

AWS hurdles

AWS' strengths do not guarantee success. Cisco and Microsoft also have strong relationships with enterprises, and the latter is the second-largest IaaS provider behind Amazon.

While Microsoft trails AWS in the IaaS market, the former's Office 365 suite leads the market for productivity applications. Also, Amazon will have to contend with Google, which is the third-largest IaaS provider -- albeit a distant third. Google's cloud-based productivity applications, called G Suite, are available on the Google Cloud.

To compete with rivals, Amazon will have to continue building out its productivity offerings, analysts said. Besides Amazon Chime, AWS also has WorkMail for email and calendaring and WorkDocs for document storage and sharing.

Next Steps

Choosing between AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure

The Amazon vs. Microsoft race in the public cloud market

Security controls in AWS WorkMail

Dig Deeper on Collaborative Applications

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Why would your organization choose Amazon Chime over Cisco WebEx or Microsoft Skype for Business?
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Wow, this virtual conferencing space is really heating! It seems that every day I receive a Google Alert with news of some push into this market by one of the major brands that never really paid attention to video/web conferencing in the past (I wonder what Facebook's plan for the space is? Their Facebook Live video and audio chat in Messenger, perhaps??).

This need for virtual collaboration is only growing in importance as Millenials, who grew up in an era where they're always connected to the web, continue to enter the workforce AND as more companies go remote with their workforce. 

By leveraging powerful features like virtual breakout groups, straw polls, and video conferencing, companies are able to use virtual collaboration technologies like Zoom (interesting that Zoom isn't mentioned in this article) and MaestroConference (http://www.maestroconference.com) to increase affinity and rapport between geographically isolated and temporary teams. This ability to remotely collaborate while maintaining productivity is going to be the key to success vs. failure, especially for startups in this environment of limited VC funding. It will be very interesting to watch how this industry shakes out over the next couple of years.
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