Amazon unveiled a virtual currency Tuesday to enhance the potential for developers to make real money in games and other "apps" tailored for Kindle Fire tablet computers.
Amazon Coins will be introduced in the United States in May in a move aimed at inspiring the creation of more fun, hip or functional programs for its challenge to iPads and rival tablets powered by Android software.
Industry analysts maintain that the availability of apps synched with people's lifestyles can be more important than slick hardware when it comes to which mobile gadgets people buy.
"Amazon Coins gives customers an easy way to spend money on developers' apps on Kindle Fire in the Amazon Appstore," said Amazon vice president of apps and games Paul Ryder.
The Seattle-based online retail titan is providing added incentive for developers by promising to give away tens of millions of dollars in Amazon Coins for people to spend when the virtual currency is introduced.
Amazon coins can be used to buy applications or to pay for virtual goods or features sold inside mini-programs.
Developers get to keep 70 percent of the revenue, with Amazon getting 30 percent.
"Amazon's new virtual currency is designed to open new opportunities for developers and make things easier for customers," said ZeptoLab chief executive Misha Lyalin, whose company makes "Cut the Rope" and other game apps.
"Everyone recognizes Amazon's success in the e-commerce world now the Amazon Appstore has become a major player in the mobile app marketplace."