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Amazon rolls out tools to help Alexa developers make money

In-skill purchases and Amazon Pay for skills could encourage more developers to create skills for Alexa.

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The Amazon Echo Plus smart speaker uses Alexa software.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Amazon is making it easier for Alexa developers to earn money from skills.

The company said Thursday it's made two tools widely available for developers in the US: in-skill purchases and Amazon Pay for skills. Both were unveiled late last year, but were only available to some developers before now. Alexa is the voice-activated software found in Amazon smart devices, and skills are Alexa's version of apps.

Amazon has moved slowly in adding new tools for developers to make money from the Alexa platform, instead focusing on expanding its customer base and ensuring Alexa users aren't bombarded with ads. That situation has likely pleased customers, but left some developers frustrated that they couldn't build viable businesses off the Alexa platform. With the two new tools, those concerns may subside and help draw in more developers to create better and more complex skills.

Prior to these tools becoming available in the US, many independent Alexa developers could only make money from an Amazon program that pays creators of the most popular skills.

In-skill purchasing allows developers to sell premium content or digital subscriptions in their skills. For example, Sony, which made the Jeopardy skill, can sell a subscription to Double Jeopardy, which offers more clues.

Amazon Pay for skills lets merchants sell products through Alexa. Using this capability, for example, TGI Friday customers can already pay for food through Alexa. This tool may help Amazon build up voice shopping on Alexa, which most customers still aren't doing.