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Amazon offers perks to customers who buy certain apps

The company needs developers to create more apps for its tablets -- and is willing to give up a little virtual currency to help persuade the devs that it's worth their while.

Amazon's Appstore Screenshot by CNET

Amazon will give you credit -- in the form of Amazon Coins -- if you buy apps from the company's new Appstore Developer Select program.

The effort is Amazon's latest to kickstart its app store, as it looks for ways to encourage developers to make better tablet apps.

The program, which Amazon rolled out Tuesday, asks developers to build their apps specifically for newer Android tablets, such as Amazon's Kindle Fire line. In exchange, Amazon will promote those apps, featuring them in a special section of its app store to increase the chances consumers will buy them.

That effort, the company hopes, will also attract more developers to its fledgling platform. Amazon's app store has roughly 100,000 apps, but that figure is overshadowed by the 375,000 apps that developers have created specifically for Apple's iPad. For developers, the program means another way to get to the holy grail of app development: a way to standout in a sea of other apps.

"We've heard from a lot of developers that are not getting discovered, not only in our app store but any app stores really," Appstore Director Aaron Rubenson said. "It is still a challenge because there's a lot of high-quality apps out there."

These incentives for developers include prominent placement in the Appstore, credits toward Amazon Web Services, and advertising through its mobile ad network, which also places ads on the lock screens of Kindle tablets.

Additionally, Amazon will put the apps in the Amazon AppStore Coins Rewards category. When customers purchase apps from that category, they get Amazon Coins in return. When customers buy a "select" app or in-app item for the first time, they will receive 250 coins (worth $2.50 in credits) to use for future purchases. Subsequent select app purchases will reward customers with coins worth about 30 percent of their purchase.

Amazon will automatically enroll apps in the program if they meet its requirements. This means the app has to look good, function well on a tablet, and incorporate Amazon's developer platform features like its Game Circle leaderboard for games, or in-app purchasing.

When apps aren't optimized for devices, there are noticeable quirks that can distract users from the app's content. If an app was made for a smaller device, like a smartphone, but placed on a tablet, you may see a black border or grainy, blown up images depending the device's screen resolution.

Rubenson said many apps already qualify for the program and those developers will notice they are enrolled immediately. The other developers will see what changes they need to make to qualify. He wouldn't say how many apps fall into that category.

This isn't the first time Amazon has added incentives for consumers and app developers to help expand its collection of apps. Amazon Coins themselves are a way for Amazon to get consumers to buy more apps in its Appstore, which in turn lures developers. This also holds true for the integration of Amazon 1-click for in-app purchases. But, this is the first program with so many developer rewards. Amazon is re-sending the message that it's open for business.

Steve Felter, the CEO of game development platform GameSalad, said Amazon's Appstore is often overlooked due to the dominance of Google's and Apple's app stores. GameSalad is an Amazon partner. The company's developer tools are free to Amazon game developers until the end of November.

The promotion is meant to encourage developers to port -- a way to take apps built for one type of operating system and recreate it for another system -- their games, particularly iOS games, to Amazon's store.

Apple's App Store hosts 900,000 apps, while the Google Play Store boasts over 1 million apps.

"A lot of people get these dollar signs in their eyes and look at the (Apple) App Store and Google Play," Felter said, "but there's a lot more competition on those platforms."