27 February 2017

Amazon Chime vs Microsoft Skype for Business

Written by Christopher Liko, Posted in Unified Communications

Amazon Chime vs Microsoft Skype for Business

How does Amazon Chime stack up? Chime vs. Skype for Business comparison.

The Challenger

On February 13, Amazon released a new unified communications service named Chime. This product has been in the works since Amazon's purchase of Biba, a meeting solution provider, in late 2016. Chime is hosted on Amazon Web Services, and has been framed as an attempt to compete with Microsoft's Skype for Business. Is Amazon's product truly a competitor? Will we remember this product as the Skype-killer, or will Chime be met with resounding silence? Here is how the two products stack up on the most important 5 metrics:

1. Joining Meetings

The online meeting features are the first of several that Amazon is advertising as key differentiators. Chime enables users to "one-tap join" a meeting, with an option to indicate if you are running late. Chime's visual roster allows users to view who has joined the meeting, who is running late, and which invitees have not joined the call. If you are using the Chime mobile app, you will receive a notification on your device when a meeting starts, which can then be joined by tapping the notification.

Skype for Business offers a "one-tap join" feature as well, but there is no button to indicate that you are running late. The Skype for Business visual roster is unavailable on mobile, and the desktop visual roster does not display invitees missing from the meeting. The Skype for Business mobile app can also provide push notifications for meetings.

Winner: Amazon Chime. It is a good start for Amazon as they slightly edge Microsoft when it comes to the ease of joining meetings.

2. Meeting Participant Volume

Amazon Chime supports up to 100 participants in an online meeting. On desktop, a video conference can host up to 16 participants, and on iOS, up to 8 participants. It is worth noting that video is currently not supported on Android devices. Chime also does not offer a meeting broadcast feature- this means that meetings can only be presented to a maximum of 100 invited participants.
Skype for Business can handle up to 250 participants in a single meeting, and while only 6 video participants are possible, the video functionality is available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The key feature that sets Skype apart from Chime here is Meeting Broadcast. Skype can broadcast meetings to 10 000 attendees. There are many additional features included with the broadcast function, including pause/rewind, real-time polling and various presenter controls.

Winner: Skype for Business. Microsoft easily dominates Amazon in this space, offering a more robust platform for webinars, enterprise all-hands meetings and video support on all platforms.

3. Calling Features

When it comes to calling, Chime only enables users to call other Chime users that are signed in with an Amazon account. There is no outbound calling from VoIP to mobile/landline. However, using a meeting invite, participants can call into meetings from mobile/landline. For this service, some examples of the dial-in rates are (per minute, USD): US/Canada $0.012, France $0.072, UK $0.092, Japan $0.493, Australia $0.052. Chime offers standard conferencing functionality, where users can add multiple participants to a call. However, there is no transfer function to pass on a call to another user.

Skype for Business offers Skype-to-Skype calling, as well as outbound dialing to mobile/landline by VoIP. Furthermore, the Skype dial-out rates are very competitive with other comparable services. Meeting participants can dial into meetings, just the same as with Chime. Some examples of the dial-in rates are (per minute, USD): US $0.010, Canada $0.013, France $0.026, UK $0.106, Japan $0.214, Australia $0.047. With Skype conferencing, users can be added to calls, but there is also a transfer function to pass calls on to other users.

Winner: Skype for Business edges Chime on this one as well. The ability to make outbound calls enables the platform organizational ubiquity, while also offering lower dial-in rates and greater functionality.

4. Pricing & Value

Amazon Chime is offered at three tiers, on a per-user basis: Basic (Free), Plus (USD $2.50/mo) and Pro (USD $15/mo). Chime Basic gives you 1:1 video/voice calls, an Outlook plugin to schedule meetings, a maximum of 2 attendees for meetings, as well as 1:1 chat and chat rooms. Upgrading to Chime Plus enables screen sharing, remote desktop control and administrator functions (user management, usage reports, Active Directory integration). Finally, purchasing the Pro version unlocks the full Chime experience. This entails meeting scheduling/hosting/recording, conference room video systems, meeting dial-in, and up to 100 attendees.

For the sake of this comparison, we will only use the pure cloud Skype for Business plans, as Chime is only offered in the cloud. Consumer Skype is free of charge and is directly comparable with Chime Basic: one-to-one calls/video calls, IM chat and meeting scheduling. The free offering also has several features to set it apart from Chime's free version. Users can call to mobile/landline, include up to 25 people on a group call, call forwarding to your physical phone, group video calling, screen sharing and more.

While consumer Skype is more robust than Chime Basic, Amazon is attempting to compete in the business user space currently dominated by Skype for Business. Microsoft offers several tiers of Skype for Business plans, but those that compete directly with Chime's pricing are Skype for Business Online 1 (USD $2.00/mo per user) and Office 365 Business Premium (USD $12.50/mo per user). The Online 1 plan includes screen sharing, remote desktop control and administrator functions. On top of this, Online 1 offers multi-party IM, unified contacts/address book from Outlook, and several contact center-related functions, such as call transfer/consult, music on hold and simultaneous ring. Most importantly, meeting can be held for up to 250 attendees. In Office 365 Business Premium, meeting broadcast is added, video conferencing for up to 250 users and audio/video recording.

Winner: This one should be obvious, but Skype is dominant when it comes to value for price. Microsoft offers many more pricing options, while matching and exceeding Chime at every tier (and at a lower price). The Business Premium plan even includes the full suite of Office applications.

5. Unified Communications

Amazon Chime is being touted as a unified communications service, but does it meet the standards of a modern UC platform? The answer is simple: Chime is not enabled for inbound/outbound calling. Calls in Chime can only be made from one user to another, so calling numbers or receiving calls from outside the organization is impossible. While users can call from outside the app into a Chime conference call, there is no PSTN functionality. There is no collaboration tool, outside of IM chat and meeting scheduling through the Outlook plugin. Chime users can view other users' presence before contacting them. Calls cannot be transferred, and other users cannot be consulted without adding them to a conference.

As expected, Skype for Business is more fully-fledged in terms of unified communications, being the more mature product. Skype for Business can make inbound/outbound PSTN calling, albeit only on Office 365 Enterprise plans (USD $8, $20 or $35 per month). In terms of collaboration, users who purchase the Office 365 Business Premium receive the full Microsoft suite along with Skype for Business. This means that users have access to SharePoint for file collaboration, Teams for chat/project collaboration, Yammer for internal social networking and Planner for workforce management. Skype users can also view presence and make transfers/consultations on calls.

Winner: Skype for Business is truly a unified communications tool, particularly because of its integration in the Office 365 ecosystem, which provides the full set of tools required for a unified communications platform. The most important differentiator here is PSTN calling, which is the key driver behind a UC platform.

The Verdict

Microsoft Skype for Business takes the win, with a score of 4-1 over Amazon Chime. Skype is a more mature calling, meetings and unified communications tool, offering significant functionality and capacity benefits over Chime. A more accurate branding for Amazon Chime would be a meetings platform- this is where the tool started its journey as Biba, and it has yet to prove that it can be anything more. A business user seeking a full UC, collaboration or contact center platform should still be looking to Skype for Business as the industry leader. In spite of this, Amazon Chime is a clear contender in the meetings space, and we will surely see improvements and features added quickly over the coming months.




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