Is This Amazon's Skype Killer?

Category: Telephony

Amazon has launched a voice calling and videoconferencing service called “Amazon Chime.” There's a free “Basic” service is useful to consumers, and a paid version targeted at businesses. Free Chime competes with other free voice/video/text messaging systems such as Skype and Google Voice/Hangouts. Let’s see how Amazon Chime stacks up.

What is Amazon Chime?

Amazon's new Chime service https://chime.aws offers texting, voice calling, and video conferencing. The app is available for Android, iOS, Mac OS, and Windows. Downloading and setup are quick and easy. You'll need a copy of the app installed on each device where you want to use it for with friends, family or business communications.

You need a valid email address to create an Amazon Chime Account. I do not recommend using the email account associated with any Amazon shopping account you may have, although that is offered as an option; it’s just bad security practice. A verification email will be sent to the address you provide; click the button in it and you’re ready to Chime in.

Chime Basic is pretty spartan. I suspect it was put together last, and in a hurry. For instance, there is only an “add contact” option, no searching, editing, or deleting. Also, to specify a contact for a call, text, or video session, you have to enter the contact’s e-mail address or choose it from a list. You can’t just search for “Bob” and find me among your contacts. That’s a pretty clear sign of unfinished software!

Amazon Chime Video Calling

That said, the functions available are straightforward and simple. You can start a text-messaging session with “Message,” or use you device’s mic and speakers to “Call” via VoIP. Text-based chat “Rooms” are available. “Meetings” allows use of your device’s camera and mic for videocalls; the key difference between the free and paid versions of Chime is the number of participants in a videocall. In the free version, only 1-to-1 videocalls are allowed.

By comparison you can have up to 9 people in a Google Hangouts video call. On Skype, you can have up to 25 people on an audio call. Skype says the maximum number of video calling participants "will vary depending on the platform and device you are using." The rule of thumb seems to be "3 to 7" people.

The blue gear icon on the right-hand side of Chime’s “Rooms” window allows the administrator to add or “edit” participants in the chat room; “edit” in this case means “delete/remove.” But to edit chat rooms is to change the name of a chat room or delete/add chat rooms. Hasty, inconsistent programming.

Each contact added to your Chime contacts list receives a Chime invitation via email. The recipient does not have to install the Chime app to participate in a meeting. Clicking on the https: link in the invitation opens a new browser window where one can join the meeting.

Is it Ready For Chime Prime Time?

Amazon Chime Basic seems pretty half-baked, but that’s only on the surface. It’s a new interface laid atop the Biba unified communications platform; Biba was founded in 2012 and acquired by Amazon Web Services in 2016, As time goes by, expect frequent updates to the UI as well as the feature set.

Chime is one more ingredient in Amazon Web Services’s enterprise recipe, which includes WorkSpaces, WorkDocs and WorkMail. These products compete with other infrastructure-as-a-service suites such as Google Enterprise and Office 365, Users of AWS’ suite report spotty performance.

Amazon has done a lot of things right, and they've proven that they know how to scale. Their online book and ecommerce operation is unparalleled, and the Kindle ebook readers are top notch. One notable exception was the Fire Phone, which flopped in the marketplace. But at least they are not afraid to innovate and risk failure.

It’s possible that Chime will also be hit-or-miss. I don't see it as a Skype killer, or a serious threat to Google Voice/Hangouts at this time, but I predict that over the next year, both the interface and the quality of the service will improve. For home users, the price is right to at least give it a try.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Is This Amazon's Skype Killer?"

Posted by:

Jeff G
20 Feb 2017

Chime could be integrated with Echo so that you can ask Alexa to call someone else with an Echo. That would be a fantastic product.


Posted by:

Janusz
20 Feb 2017

Skype allows dial-out (paid) calls to ordinary phones. Chime does not.
OTOH, Chime allows dial-in (paid) connections from ordinary phones to Chime conferences.


Posted by:

john silberman
20 Feb 2017

I don't see how this competes with Skype. Skype can call any phone in the world, not just numbers connected to Skype. It appears Chime only works with other Chime users. Also, Chime says it runs on all platforms, but there is no app to run on Linux. I assume Linux users can join by browser, but not sure. But Chime seems to be a neat video conference tool.


Posted by:

David
20 Feb 2017

Skype has been widely copied or at least imitated by various companies so to me it looks like they're way to late to introduce another similar product no matter how good it may be.


Posted by:

chuck
20 Feb 2017

Half baked pretty well describes this. Why roll out a product not ready?


Posted by:

BobD
20 Feb 2017

There is a business opportunity for a service that doesn't turn its user interface up-side-down unpredictably. Google Voice became unrecognizable a few weeks ago. Sure, its functions are still there, I think. But to make a call, the user has to go into Legacy Voice, or fumble with Hangouts or something.

To be fair, I am a moocher on Google's largess, like billions of other moochers, so I omit complaining, and offer praise, homage, and fealty to the Lords of Google.


Posted by:

Leo
21 Feb 2017

I have a Skype DECT Cordless phone (it's like a home phone adapter for Skype) since long before Microsoft bought Skype. So, to have a Skype killer, I need (take note, Amazon): a Call-IN number, a Call-OUT subscription and being compatible with a Skype phone adapter (or a Skype DECT Cordless phone), plus having the option to record all inbound and outbound calls automatically. Do all this, and you will have a new customer guaranteed.


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