Completely unsurprising, Amazon has now unveiled a Maps API. It acquired a 3D mapping startup, UpNext back in July, but this is probably unrelated, as UpNext had data only for a few US cities.
It is unclear what data Amazon uses; there was a rumor that it was hooking up with Nokia, but it hasn't been confirmed.
"You may have noticed a new API on the Amazon Mobile App SDK tab in the developer portal. When we announced Kindle Fire HD, we also made the Amazon Maps API available to our developer community," Amazon announced
"The Amazon Maps API makes it easy for you to integrate mapping functionality into apps that run on the all-new Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD," it said.
Amazon says developers should have an easy time migrating from the Google Maps API. What it means is that developers will be able to port their existing Android apps quite easily, as the two APIs should be compatible.
The first Kindle Fire had no map API which made sense since it had no GPS and it was essentially geared towards media consumption.
The new Kindle Fire and the new Kindle Fire HD are still designed for the sofa, first and foremost, but Amazon is expanding their uses
. The new Maps API is a step towards a more generalist tablet.
Developers will have access to two big features. Embeddable maps, which work as standalone modules, allow users to scour the world. The API is also offering custom overlays which enable developers to add their own data.
The API is in beta and developers can apply to get early access. Still, at this moment, there's still some confusion over where the data comes from. The likely source is Nokia, via its Navteq acquisition, though it could be Open Street Maps as well.
Still, there aren't that many map data providers that cover the world and have fairly detailed data. That said, Amazon only needs really accurate or detailed data in the US and a couple of other countries where the Kindle Fire will be available.
UPDATE: Nokia has now confirmed that it's supplying the mapping data