Mapping is key to mobile platforms and developers, with location services and mapping integration increasingly used in web and native apps. Until recently, the Google Maps API was almost a de-facto standard, but the company's messing about with pricing and general dominance led to companies seeking out usable alternatives. In some cases, larger organisations have decided to roll their own, in order to not be reliant on a competitor for a key feature.
With Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets gaining ground, competing directly against Android tablets, the company's announcement that the Amazon Maps API is now available seems logical and timely. Amazon first launched the API as a public beta in September, and the announcement stated the company has since then "received a great deal of interest in our Amazon Maps API offering and partnered with developers to integrate mapping into Kindle Fire tablet apps".
The Amazon Maps API has two core features: interactive maps that can be embedded in an app, and custom overlays for displaying landmark locations with customised markers and pins. Amazon reported that the API now forms part of the Amazon Mobile App SDK (opens in new tab), although as The Next Web reported in September, Amazon's system isn't entirely independent, relying heavily on Nokia data.
Amazon will surely be hoping its solution betters Apple's, which, according to the New York Times, has resulted in the manager who oversaw its development being fired by Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president for internet software and services. Reaction to Apple's mapping solution, which had previously utilised Google data, was so negative that Apple CEO Tim Cook apologised online (opens in new tab), stating that it needed to improve, and he also mentioned competing products that could be used in the meantime. At the time of writing, Apple maps are still peppered with errors and location problems, along with US-standard colouring that in many cases deviates heavily from local expectations. The New York Times article quoted product director Tyler Bell as stating, pessimistically, "All these things need to be improved, and it's a never-ending problem."