These days it’s all about the maps, and not to be left out it appears Amazon has made a little purchase. The online retailer has announced the acquisition of 3D mapping startup UpNext.
UpNext already has a suite of apps for iOS and Android devices offering amazing maps of 50 cities across the United States. For 23 of those cities the detail is actually pretty remarkable, with enhanced details like a Super Bowl guide that offers full views of the stadium and surrounding area.
I suppose it makes sense in a way, Amazon didn’t have a mapping service of their own –though one would think that they would tag along with Google’s mapping services given that they run the Android operating system on the Kindle Fire.
What it might indicate is that the next version of the Kindle Fire (which most people are expecting to see toward the end of this year) will have a GPS radio, a feature the current tablet doesn’t have. It may also point toward an Amazon branded smartphone.
Of course, it may also be Amazon acting cautiously. With Google making their own tablet hardware (well, sort of), selling Android tablets has just become a whole lot more competitive. Whether Amazon stays with the Android platform or not, having high quality 3D maps tightly integrated with their devices could be an incredibly valuable selling feature.
UpNext was founded in 2007 by a group of four high-school friends with a meager amount of “friends and family” seed money. A major boost in 2007 found the company with over $500,000 in capital to re-invest and expand with after a round of preferred shares were sold –and now the group will be enjoying an undisclosed amount of Amazon’s money (some rumors suggest a 5x return on investment from 16 months ago). The four founders of UpNext are currently relocating to Seattle where they will lead Amazon’s mapping efforts.