San Francisco -- It appears that these days everyone is dipping its toes into the hot mobile mapping game. And today, Amazon entered the cartography pool as it is building up its presence in the mapping business, endorsed a deal to acquire 3D mapping startup UpNext, GigaOM has learned.
For Amazon, which does not have a mapping service of its own, the acquisition seems to mark a move into new territory, this latest acquisition will help Amazon offer native mapping capabilities, so users would not have to download third-party apps or use browser-powered mapping services.
In fact, if one has to access maps on the Kindle Fire, users must download third-party Android apps or access online mapping services via the browser. The Kindle Fire does not currently include a GPS radio but the UpNext acquisition, which would certainly empower Amazon offer native mapping capabilities, potentially points to a more robust Kindle Fire in the future, as well as an Amazon smartphone.
According to a GigaOM, the aspiring 3-D mapping startup currently has apps for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire. The app uses vector-based 3-D images to recreate virtual buildings -- this as opposed to the photo-based technology used by Google and Apple's map offerings. These vector-based textured images resemble those you might see in a videogame, like Grand Theft Auto. GTA might not be the image Amazon is going for with its acquisition, but the maps look impressive nonetheless.
The UpNext 3-D maps are available for more than 50 cities nationwide , with 23 cities sporting textured 3-D with roadways, and has partnered with the NFL to build 2011 and 2012 Super Bowl guides of the stadium and surrounding areas. Besides, it can be search by category or keyword, and find photos and reviews in the app's results. With Foursquare integration, users can see friends' recommendations or tap on a building to find out what is inside.
UpNext was established in 2007 by four high school buddies looking to improve on map making. It now carries five apps that provide map exploration and social features, in 3D. The map-centric applications are available on all iOS platforms, as well as Android tablets. UpNext Maps is currently available in the Apple iTunes Store.
Furthermore, the price of the acquisition has not been disclosed, but GigaOM hinted that investors are getting a five-time return on the initial investment of $500,000 made in March 2011.
Check out UpNext's 3D maps on the iPhone and iPad in the videos below: