Amazon Is Challenging Microsoft and Cisco With a Yet Another Service

Feb 14, 2017

Amazon Web Services is ruffling the feathers of the software establishment again.

Late Monday, the cloud giant announced Chime, cloud-based software designed to let business customers make voice or video calls, converse in chat rooms, and hold web conferences from their mobile or desktop devices..

In this so-called "unified communications" arena, Amazon faces several established players such as Microsoft (msft) and Cisco Systems, which offer Skype for Business and Cisco Spark, respectively. Google Hangouts and LogMeIn (logm), which now owns GoToMeeting, are two other contenders.

"The biggest thing we heard from customers was that their voice and conferencing software was not easy to use, clunky, and expensive and no one tool works for all tasks," Gene Farrell, AWS vice president of enterprise applications tells Fortune.

He claimed Chime, on the other hand, makes it easy to set up calls, see which participants are on the line, and which of those people's connections are muddied by background noise. And the call administrator can mute the mic of the person who's got a radio playing in the background with a button click.

Brooks Brothers has been using an early version of the product and Vonage (vg), an Internet telephony provider, and Level 3 Communications (lvlt), will sell Chime to business customers.

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Anecdotal evidence backs up the contention that products like Cisco (csco) Webex, another web conference product, and GoToMeeting require multiple steps and/or downloads to set up. And, connecting a Skype for Business user to a Skype user is not for the faint of heart.

So if Chime really is drop-dead easy to use—and lets users call, chat, hold group conferences, share screens with minimal angst—it could have an advantage. Farrell would not say if this product grew out of an acquisition or from internal development but AWS reportedly bought Biba, a San Francisco startup specializing in collaboration software last year.

Chime is just the latest example of AWS—which started out in 2006 selling basic storage, computing, and networking services—adding higher level services. As the years progressed, Amazon started to compete with more traditional software companies, some of which use its foundational infrastructure.

Other examples of these higher-level products include Amazon (amzn) WorkDocs file storage and sharing software; WorkSpaces desktop virtualization; and WorkMail email and calendar. These products target corporate end users rather than tech professionals.

It's unclear how well WorkDocs or these other products have done in the market although Amazon says they've gotten good traction.

Amazon Chime is available now, offering high-definition video and audio quality. Business customers have several versions to choose from, including a free entry-level product for basic calling and messaging. Higher-tier (and higher priced) options add screen-sharing, integration with the customer's in-house directory, and support for meetings of up to 200 people.

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