Amazon is done playing around with the video conferencing competition. The tech giant is leaning on its massive resources and is practically giving away its new Chime platform. On April 1, Chime became the champion for pay as you go video conferencing, charging its users only when they use the platform.
It’s a radical shake-up of the traditional freemium vs. subscription video calling models–a money-saving third option that features the best of both worlds. Provided that Amazon Chime offers a quality product, and so far it’s been solid if not spectacular, this could be very good news for small businesses–and very bad news for less resource-rich video vendors.
The Rise of Pay As You Go Video Conferencing
VC Daily reviewed Chime soon after it was released in mid-2017, and you can, too, with the free 30-day trial. While it didn’t blow us away, the platform does have all the basics a high-quality video conferencing service should possess. The user interface is clean and intuitive, and it has HD visuals, automatic reconnect, chat messaging, screen and file sharing, and an improving smartphone service.
But we were expecting more from one of the world’s tech leaders. We were hoping Amazon would leverage its e-commerce, on-demand streaming, and software-as-a-service empire to create a wondrous new “Skype killer.” It’s not. At least not yet.
The move to pay as you go, however, is promising. It’s a unique feature among the leading video conferencing vendors, the kind of innovation we were anticipating.
The system still requires users sign up for a monthly subscription, but they have some control over costs. Businesses are charged $3 per host for every day the platform is used. The total bill, however, will never exceed the cheapest monthly subscription fee of $15 per month. In addition, Amazon has removed its middle-tier plan and added extra features, such as screen sharing and directory, to the cheapest plan.
That’s all good news for small business customers.
Who Can Benefit from Pay As You Go VC?
The pay as you go video calling model is really a throwback to the days of the standard mobile phone contract. Sprint, for instance, used to treat video conferencing like an international call. If you made a video call, you paid extra for it, but if you didn’t, it was like the service didn’t even exist.
The improvement here is that it doesn’t matter how many video calls you make, the price is ultimately capped at $15 a month per host. That makes Chime pretty much a no-risk service. If you’re a small business just testing the video conferencing waters, you can sign up and access a well-stocked platform, without pressure to make use of it if it’s ultimately not for you. Make no video calls, incur no costs.
Similarly, it makes reliable video conferencing accessible to those who use it only for special occasions. It’s an extra tool in the business communications kit bag that can be deployed to impress where necessary.
It’s a nice third option if you’re considering the debate between subscription and free video calling. As we’ve mentioned before, small businesses should only pay for video calling if they think their needs will go beyond what a free option like Skype can provide. Now you can find out exactly what those needs are, without making any financial commitment or having to compromise on video options.
Of course, the reason pay as you go isn’t common is it’s not a great business model unless you’ve got the buckets of money Amazon can dip into–and that makes this service a concern for mid-range video vendors.
Amazon Flexes Its Video Calling Muscle
Video conferencing was once dominated by hardware manufacturers who had to be called on to install on-premises systems that required expert IT supervision. The rise of software-based platforms, however, has seen a rise in mid-tier companies that simply supply the software, maintain your connection in the cloud, and leave users to control simplified interfaces. That’s given smaller companies like Zoom, BlueJeans, and Vidyo a chance to compete with long-established players like Cisco and Polycom.
Lately though, this software focus has made it easy for the biggest players, the Big 5 Tech companies to also take a serious interest in video conferencing. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and now Amazon have since rolled out new video platforms–and they play on a different field than anyone else. Could Zoom or BlueJeans afford to risk an uneven cash flow by matching pay as you go? At the moment they are price competitive with Chime, but can they afford to dedicate resources to less-than-committed customers?
Pay as you go may be only the first shot in a new, unfair financial video conferencing battle. When one side has pockets as deep as Amazon’s, it could get ugly, quickly.