September 25, 2012

Mapping Out the Future


While we’re putting the finishing touches on the upcoming Business of APIs (BAPI) conference, the premier global forum for API experts and professionals, we’re still keeping a close eye on the world around us. And that’s good, because there’s a lot happening out in API-land—just ask Amazon.

Following quite a bit of buzz, the online retailing giant has launched its new Maps API, which saw the light of day alongside the new Kindle Fire models that came out a few weeks ago.

The API offers two core features: Interactive Maps, which enables developers to embed a Map View in an app for customers to zoom around; and Custom Overlays, which allow users to display the locations of businesses, landmarks and other points of interest with customized markers and pins.

Built for apps that run on the new Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD tablets, this release supports location-based services through the android.location API. It sounds like a roadmap to ubiquitous consumer delight.

What’s under the surface of this advancement in maps, however, is sheer competition. The companies behind these devices appear to be moving away from their rivals’ technology and developing their own.

The battle between Amazon and Google may be at its fiercest with the release of the Nexus7 tablet and the Kindle HD. What’s most interesting is the weapon of choice: the API. The proof is in the documentation. Amazon stresses that the new Maps API “provides a simple migration path for developers who are already using the native Google Maps API on Android.” And there you have it.

As several commentators have already noted, the primary purpose of the Amazon Maps API seems to be weaning developers—and their customers—off Google. As if two players weren’t enough, enter Nokia, which is licensing its Nokia Location Platform. That data also powers Microsoft’s Bing Maps and Yahoo! maps and geolocating.

The simple take on all this is that we are now in open season for the consumer device market, in a war fought by way of the consumer data market. It will be interesting to see how Amazon, Nokia (with licenses to Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo), Apple and Google shake out.

Plotting out a road map to the future—it’s clear that there’s some real action on the way. Let’s face it, this is not your father’s PC world, where one operating system held sway and all applications had to play by its rules. As the battle between mobile devices becomes ever more intense, the dizzying variety of brands, form factors and operating systems will stoke strong match-ups, and competition will trump cooperation.

This is also another example of APIs that mean competitive advantage: staking out one’s territory with a fully formed API strategy. We see this more and more, as APIs - and the innovation, partnerships, distribution and scale they power – wield the potential to move markets.

Want to learn more about how companies are using APIs as the most powerful form of competitive advantage today? Join us at the Business of APIs conference on Oct 2 (SF), Oct 17 (NY) and Nov. 6 (London) to hear what leaders in APIs are doing to stake out their competitive edge.