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Turning the TV into a 'social-media center'

Like Microsoft and Apple, start-up Boxee wants to tie televisions to computers, eventually enabling users of social networks to update their profile through a living-room set.

Using Boxee's service, users can access their songs, videos, and photos on a TV. Boxee

LOS ANGELES--Boxee wants to give Steve Ballmer what he wants.

The Microsoft CEO complained recently how unsocial the television set is compared to the Web.

"My son will stay up all night basically playing Xbox Live with friends that are in various parts of the world," Ballmer told The Washington Post. "And yet I can't sit there in front of the TV and have the same kind of a social interaction around my favorite basketball game or golf match."

Boxee, a start-up that will launch a test version of the service on Monday, has plans to enable users to transfer their digital content from computers to their TVs and eventually turn the TV set into a "social-media center," CEO Avner Ronen said.

Sure, lots of other companies, including Apple and Microsoft, are trying to tie the PC to the TV. The difference is that Boxee is relying on the creativity of developers to build the kind of applications that consumers want. The company emerged from the XBMC project, an open-source effort to turn Xboxes into media centers.

Boxee's open-source software already lets users to share reviews, songs, video, and photos with friends. Executives expect that one day, Boxee users will move their Facebook content to Boxee and turn their TV into a hub for communications, social-networking, and media.

Nonetheless, the service still doesn't have an elegant answer to hooking up the TV to the Web. A user must connect them through a cable. That means hauling the laptop and plugging it into the TV every time you want to use Boxee. This is "clunky," Ronen acknowledges, but the company intends to eventually sign deals that would place them on a set-top box.

The service works only with systems running Linux and Mac OS X, but it will soon be compatible with Windows. NewTeeVee was first to report on the Boxee launch.