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WebTV plans to live up to its name

WebTV is planning to launch a service that lets users browse the Web on their TV sets.

WebTV, a startup founded by three former Apple Computer executives, is planning to launch a service this fall that lets users browse the Web via their television sets.

The company said today that it is licensing a WebTV reference design for set-top boxes and other devices to consumer electronics companies that will manufacture the systems. The first licensees will be announced next month, according to the company.

WebTV will also offer a subscription-based online service that lets consumers use the set-top boxes to surf the Web and send email. No pricing for the service has been announced.

WebTV is not the first company to target Internet access to TV viewers. Diba, another start-up formed earlier this year by a former Oracle executive and a former Apple engineer, has enlisted the help of Hitachi to launch a series of set-top boxes that will provide Internet access. Those systems will ship later this year, priced from $150 to $300.

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