The UpNext team apparently will be moving to Seattle to spearhead a new Amazon mapping effort. That suggests that the e-commerce company will be building an Android-based smartphone — likely under the Kindle brand.
I suppose there are some less-ambitious scenarios, such as incorporating maps into existing Amazon apps. But I think something larger is afoot. And it sets off a chain of thoughts in my head.
Assuming Amazon is building a full-fledged mapping platform, it could rely to some degree on OpenStreetMap data. More likely, however, Amazon will need additional acquisitions to build up its maps and navigation capabilities if it wants to create a top-notch service. There are a number of companies that it could acquire, including deCarta or Telenav among several others. Alternatively Amazon could strike a deal with Nokia/Navteq.
However perhaps the most intriguing mapping-acquisition scenario is one where Amazon tries to buy MapQuest from AOL, which has for years neglected the site. Absent that neglect MapQuest would potentially still be on top of the mapping world. But even so it still has massive traffic, a loyal following and a strong brand.
The central question in this mapping fantasy involves how much would AOL ask to part with MapQuest, which is a pretty important property to the company despite its neglect. And how much would a MapQuest be worth to Amazon? As mentioned, Amazon has plenty of alternatives to choose from. It may also be inclined to acquire smaller companies that could be more easily integrated.
Clearly Amazon has the money and the technology chops to build a bona-fide competitor to Google Maps (and Apple Maps) in support of a Kindle phone. As some people may remember, Amazon’s early search initiative A9 had a mapping component that was ahead of its time with a Street View like photography aspect (“Block View”). Amazon also holds some key visual-mapping patents I believe.
What do you think about: a) the idea of Amazon Maps and b) who Amazon might seek to acquire to bolster or accelerate the effort?
Related: my original post on UpNext from August, 2007 — UpNext Building a 3D Yelp