We might as well call 2012 the year of the 3D map. We've seen both Apple and Google show their cards, but GigaOM now hears that Amazon has jumped in by acquiring newcomer UpNext. The details are scant, but the approximately $2.5 million deal would give Amazon the startup's 3D, Android-native maps of 50 US cities, complete with navigation and extra information about notable buildings. The online reseller hasn't confirmed whether or not the acquisition is happening, which leaves it very much in rumor territory for now. That said, it's not hard to imagine Amazon taking that leap. The Kindle Fire is cut out of the official Android ecosystem and won't get built-in 3D maps without effort on its creator's part -- a buyout would certainly put that mapping on the fast track.
Update: As reader James points out, the value of the deal is likely to be higher: unless the $500,000 investment let the investors control all of the company and the sale price wasn't higher, talk of a fivefold return on investment could represent considerably more than $2.5 million. Without any official response from Amazon, though, it's probable that the acquisition was small enough that it didn't have to publicly report the details.