Amazon introduces virtual currency -

Amazon is bringing in virtual currency that can be used for purchases on the Kindle Fire tablet.

Apparently the idea is to encourage more developers to create programs for the device.

From May, US customers can use Amazon Coins to buy applications and virtual merchandise sold within games.

The company will "print" "tens of millions of dollars" worth of the currency, which will be accepted in the Amazon app store.

It is seen as a cunning plan to get users to play with Fire apps and encourage more developers to write apps for it. Amazon's market share of the tablet market has slipped to 12 percent from 16 percent.

Under the virtual money, plan developers will continue to get the 70 percent revenue share from purchases made with the coins. After the coin giveaway ends, customers will be able to buy the tokens using Amazon accounts, the company announced.

"Amazon Coins is an easy way for Kindle Fire customers to spend money in the Amazon Appstore, offering app and game developers another substantial opportunity to drive traffic, downloads and increase monetisation," the company said in a statement.

Amazon has already released tools that let developers add more features to games for its tablet, including tracking high scores and monitoring awards won during play.

The online bookseller has a long way to go before it catches up with Apple and Android. Amazon currently has more than 68,000 apps in its store, compared with 4,000 when the store debuted in March 2011, the company said. Google and Apple have about 700,000 apps apiece in their stores.