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A new iPad app called Fayve, making its debut on Thursday, will join a crowded field of digital tools that help people discover movies and television shows. But this one is different — having started out not as a product but as a way for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to navigate his own giant collection of films and shows.

Yes, that’s right — when you’re a billionaire tech mogul, you’re not limited by off-the-shelf apps. Allen has a staff of people coming up with technologies and tools to help manage his stuff and address his challenges. And sometimes the things they come up with turn out to have broader appeal.

That’s the case with Fayve, which indexes content from Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and other online video services. It recommends content based on ratings by the user, their social activity (such as Facebook likes), their wishlist items, Netflix queue, and also the preferences of the user’s Facebook friends, among other inputs.

“Paul has probably one of the world’s largest private digital collections of movies, music and TV shows. He wants to watch and listen to these things at his fingertips,” said Chris Purcell, the vice president of technology for Allen’s Vulcan Inc., via phone today. “We built Fayve to sit on top of his collection, to give him exactly that experience.”

Although the core of Fayve was originally developed for Allen’s personal use, his technology team went through extensive development and design work to get it ready for public use as an iPad app. The app is free, but this is a business venture, making money through revenue sharing from the different video services to which Fayve directs users.

Fayve uses a carousel approach that sorts movies and shows based on filters, such as genres, recommended items, actor or actress, new arrivals and other variables. Fayve can also be used to look up show times and buy movie tickets at theaters.

Apart from a reference to “favorites,” the name of the app is an homage to Allen’s mom, Faye, who passed away earlier this year.

It’s far from the first foray into Hollywood-oriented businesses for Allen, who also was an investor in DreamWorks and the backer of set-top box maker Digeo, among many other investments and ventures.

The iPad app is set to go live on Thursday in the App Store. Update: The app is now available for download here.

Allen’s team is also planning versions for Windows 8 and Android. Here’s an FAQ on the Fayve site, and more screenshots from the app. (Click any image for a gallery.)

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