Amazon has put its best mapping foot forward today and purchased 3D-mapping startup UpNext for an undisclosed amount, according to a report from GigaOM. UpNext only consists of four people - Raj Advani, Vik Advani, Robin Har and Danny Moon, all of whom are founders - who will be making the coast-to-coast relocation from their current digs in New York City to Amazon's mothership in Seattle. It goes without saying that these four young gentleman are now worth lot more money than they were when they woke up this morning.
Currently, users of Kindle Fire have to resort to third-party Android apps like MapQuest to get some map information, or else just go to a website via the browser, so the acquisition of UpNext certainly indicates that there would be a native Amazon mapping service in the future.
UpNext recently released the following demo video of its app on iOS that shows off the service's 3D maps.
The app for iOS does require a front-facing camera, so unless Amazon plans to alter the app dramatically to let it run on the currently camera-less Kindle, it does seem to indicate that the Kindle Fire 2 could have a front-facing camera, which was what Wired speculated on last week.
The next year or two is going to be a time of some interesting experiments in the online search market. Long the undisputed leader in all things search, Google is going to meet some legitimate challenges in the near future. The most notable will be from Apple, which has spent the last couple of years picking up mapping companies, resulting in Apple announcing that it will be releasing its own mapping service with iOS 6, thus booting Google Maps as the default map app on Apple devices. That seems to be the approach that Amazon is taking here, especially if the company should acquire more geoservice companies in the future.
Amazon doesn't have any other reason for purchasing UpNext than to enter the map market and compete directly against Google, Apple, and Bing. All we're missing at this picnic table is Facebook and then everybody will have a piece of the map cake.[Via GigaOM.]