Valve already dominates the PC gaming scene with its digital distribution platform Steam, but the company wants to take its market share one step further with SteamOS, a free operating system designed for the TV and living room alike.
The company says that while it’s been exploring the best way to bring Steam to the living room – the highly anticipated Steambox is still in development – it has decided that an operating system “built around Steam itself” is the best way forward.
SteamOS leverages “the rock-solid architecture of Linux” and will be available in the near future as a free, standalone operating system.
It’s still unclear exactly what SteamOS will run on though. Valve says the traditional Steam client and SteamOS will support in-home steaming, giving players the ability to play all of their existing Windows and Mac games on a SteamOS “machine” hooked up to their TV. It sounds pretty similar to the Remote Play functionality offered by the PS3/4 and PS Vita/PS Vita TV.
Valve is also working to bring media services to the platform – no word yet on what those are, but a crucial feature if SteamOS machines are to compete with the Xbox One and other set-top streaming boxes.
Steam Family Sharing, announced earlier this month as a way to ease some of the inherent restrictions with digital game libraries, will also be baked into SteamOS. Valve says the feature will be bolstered with additional options to help parents control what content their children can access.
A new platform means that Valve has to attract renewed support from the development community. Valve says hundreds of games are already running natively on SteamOS, while the aforementioned in-home streaming will cover everything else missing from its 3,000 plus library.
Valve’s decision to create its own standalone platform isn’t too surprising. Gabe Newell, CEO of Valve and a former Microsoft employee, emphasized his support for Linux last year while describing Windows 8 as a “catastrophe”.
SteamOS should give the company much greater control over its distribution platform, as well as a more consistent experience for end-users.
All we need now is something to run it on. Valve says it will be free to license for manufacturers and also a free download for users. But we’re still waiting on a true, flagship product that can be sold to consumers. Valve’s teaser page shows that it still has two announcements waiting in the wings. Is one of them the long-awaited Steam Box?
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