The battle over digital mapping may have just gotten a new combatant, as GigaOM, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) and other outlets report that Internet retailer Amazon has clinched a deal to buy New York-based 3D mapping company UpNext.
Neither company has confirmed the deal, and there are no reports of the financial terms.
UpNext was founded in 2007 and offers mobile applications for iPhone and iPad that enable users to explore 3D versions of cities. Maps include information like building information, roadways, and transportation options, and UpNext also focuses heavily on public venue information—think concerts and sporting events. UpNext’s mapping applications integrate social media—making it easier for users to find places they’d actually want to go—and have been lauded for their fluid interfaces. UpNext currently covers 50 cities, with about half those enhanced with in-depth information.
Amazon’s acquisition of UpNext could indicate the company plans to compete with the likes of Google, Apple, and Microsoft/Nokia for a share of the mobile mapping market. Mapping technology is a hot area for mobile development as consumers increasingly turn to their smartphones and tablets for routs, turn-by-turn navigation, and location-based searching to find interesting events, businesses, and activities nearby. That, of course, makes mobile mapping a ripe are for mobile advertising: advertising with mobile maps is currently estimated to account for about one quarter of the $2.5 billion expected to be spent on mobile advertising in 2012, according to Opus Research.
Google Maps is the dominant player in the online mapping world, but faces challenges from Microsoft/Nokia and Apple. Microsoft has its own Bing Maps, and recently announced Nokia Maps will be the default mapping system in Windows Phone 8, and Apple will be dropping Google Maps in iOS 6 in favor of its own homegrown mapping solution powered by data from OpenStreetMap.