This syndicated post originally appeared at Network World Zeus Kerravala.

A Chinese wind chime with a symbol for "luck." Credit: Steve Webster
Next month in Orlando, the business communications industry will be holding its largest show, Enterprise Connect. One of the big topics of the show has always been and will likely continue to be how we get all of these disparate unified communications (UC) solutions to work with each other. Often the integration is done at the user level where the worker needs to use multiple tools to collaborate effectively.

I actually find the term “unified communications” to be about a big an oxymoron as there is. Fifteen years into the evolution of this market and the industry still needs plugins, custom code, gateways and connectors to “unify” all of the applications that make up UC.

One of the innovations that was to be a panacea of sorts for the UC industry was WebRTC as it would enable workers to use any communications tool through a browser, without plug ins, on any device. However, WebRTC has fallen short of expectations. The technology works with some browsers and some applications but has yet to live up to the hype.

Today, CafeX announced a product called Chime that enables users to collaborate with others over any browser with no software to install. Chime actually fulfills on the vision that WebRTC was supposed to deliver but never did. It’s hard to describe how the product works in a blog so to visually see how Chime works, so I included a link to a video that shows it.

Chime is a full featured collaboration system that includes rich video conferencing, document sharing, chat capabilities, a contact list and other tools needed for workers to interact with each other. This in itself isn’t game changing as lots of solution providers claim to have a full suite of collaboration tools.

What differentiates Chime is that it works in all browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge and Safari without any additional software. While the concept of the browser plugins seems simple enough, it’s very intrusive and often causes meetings to start late while workers are updating the software to the latest version. Workers like things that are easy to use and having to pause a meeting, download software, install it and restart the session is anything but easy. Chime’s approach is much simpler.

Another key feature for Chime is that it interoperates with leading room and desktop systems including Cisco Telepresence (Cisco is a client of ZK Research), Microsoft Skype For Business (formerly Lync) and Slack. One of the challenges with UC is that many solutions are islands unto themselves, where CafeX has built a solution that can connect into many of those islands.

Also, CafeX has engineered the solution to run efficiently across the network. CafeX claims the solution uses 75% less network bandwidth and reduces MCU port usage by 50% to 80%. Without actually testing this, I can’t verify the actual numbers but in a conversation with company officials, they did describe how the sessions are set up and connected so I believe it is more efficient.

Lastly, CafeX supports both cloud and on-premises deployments with flexible subscription pricing. This helps ease the cost of deployment but also allows customers to flex up or down depending on usage.

The UC industry has historically been long on promise and short on results and WebRTC is no exception. Chime from CafeX can deliver that “any to any” connectivity that users want without the associated headaches of plugins, software or compatibility issues.

Pricing for Chime will be $5-$15 per month based the features, volume.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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