UPDATED: While Amazon has built its Kindle Fire tablets using a reskinned version of Android, it has kept its distance from Google’s services. And now it’s further helping its developers do the same.
Amazon has announced a new maps API for its mobile app SDK, giving developers an alternative to using Google Maps for mapping in their apps. With the maps API, developers will be able to integrate interactive maps that switch between map and satellite view and show a user’s present location. They will also be able to insert custom overlays of local data and points of interest. Amazon has also created a simple migration path for developers who are already using Google Maps in their app.
It’s unclear what Amazon is relying on for its new maps API. The company in July acquired 3D mapping startup UpNext. But it’s unlikely that’s what’s powering this API, since UpNext offers 3D maps of about 50 cities nationwide. It could be mapping data from Nokia, which was reportedly supplying mapping services to the Kindle Fire, according to a report from Reuters.
This is the latest step by Amazon to distance itself from Google services. Amazon has not integrated Google Maps into the Kindle Fire. It has built its own app store called Amazon Appstore for Android and it will now use Bing as its default search engine on its Silk browser on its Kindle Fire devices. If it can develop its own maps API, it’s likely that Amazon will have its own native mapping solution soon for Kindle Fire devices. That would follow in the footsteps of Apple, which is introducing its own mapping app in iOS 6 built upon its own technology. And that would be helpful if Amazon ever comes out with a smartphone to go along with its tablets.
UPDATE: Nokia has confirmed to The Next Web that it is licensing its Nokia Location Platform to Amazon for maps and geocoding. Nokia’s NLP, which offers maps in almost 200 countries, is also used by Yahoo for Yahoo Maps and is increasingly being used for Microsoft’s Bing Maps. So while Amazon is making investments of its own for mapping, it looks like it will work in conjunction with Nokia’s existing mapping technology. That makes more sense because it’s hard to build something as complex as a mapping system from scratch the way Apple is trying to do. Amazon can rely on Nokia for that while still adding its own touches like UpNext’s 3D maps.