Looks as though Amazon is getting into the mapping business, as reports claim that the online retail giant has purchased 3D mapping startup UpNext. Nothing official has arrived by way of either party, but the deal was supposedly sealed on Monday.
The move seemingly points to possible GPS support in the next Kindle Fire tablets, rumored to be called the Kindle Fire HD (7-inch) and the Kindle Fire XL (10-inch), or the next generation. Owners of Amazon's current tablet must download third-party Android apps or access online mapping services through the browser, relying on an IP address instead of actual longitude/latitude points.
But by having an in-house mapping service, not only would the company have a native client to offer, but it would be in a better position to compete with Google and Apple which offer their own 3D mapping services. Even more, the acquisition could pave the way for an Amazon smartphone which would provide turn-by-turn directions.
In January, UpNext partnered with Verizon Wireless to release the UpNext HD Maps app for Apple's iPhone, iPad and Android tablets. It covers 50 cities across the United States, 23 of which are 3D enhanced including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco and more. The app allows the user to drop down to street level and tap their way to more information about the surrounding buildings, and different views of the area. Reviews call it "gorgeous" and "amazingly fluid."
As part of the Amazon acquisition, the four-person mapping company will reportedly move from its New York office and head to Seattle to lead Amazon's core mapping effort. UpNext was founded in 2007 by high school friends Raj Advani, Vik Advani, Robin Har and Danny Moon who have mostly bootstrapped the company until March 2011, when they raised $500,000.
Prior to the Amazon acquisition, UpNext's investors have included Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital, David Cohen’s Bullet Time Ventures, David Tisch’s Box Group and Paul Sethi’s PKS Capital. UpNext's investors are reportedly getting a 5x return on their investment from 16 months ago, which only means extra dollar signs for Amazon once the acquisition is complete.