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Linux-based SteamOS is Valve's big play for the living room

Linux-based SteamOS is Valve's big play for the living room
September 23, 2013 | By Kris Graft

September 23, 2013 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

As part of Valve's positioning for a more living room friendly PC game experience, the company dropped a bombshell: It's introducing the Linux-based SteamOS.

"We’ve come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself," Valve said in its much-anticipated announcement.

"SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen."

Valve's timing for the announcement comes just a couple months before Sony and Microsoft launch their next-generation video game consoles.

Valve founder Gabe Newell has been vocal about his concerns regarding the possibilities of a more closed PC ecosystem, particularly with Microsoft's Windows 8, which he previously bluntly called a "catastrophe." Linux is an open source OS that Newell has said just needs more game support in order to make it a more viable platform, and Valve is spearheading that support.

Valve said SteamOS will be available "soon" as a standalone OS that's tailored for living room use.

SteamOS is just the first Valve living room announcement that's coming this week. Two more announcements are scheduled.

One of those announcements could well be Valve's Steam Box, a console-like platform that is TV-friendly, but Linux-based, and also plugged into Steam's 50 million-user-strong distribution platform.

But if Valve does announce its own box, don't expect it to be the only SteamOS device. Following Newell's vision of platform openness, Valve said it expects hardware makers to "iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they’ve been able to." Users will also be able to alter the hardware in any way they like.

Valve said its OS will also facilitate closer relationships between game developers and players, and encourage more of a community among players.

SteamOS has been under tight wraps, but Valve says it already has game developers creating games for it. "In SteamOS, we have achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and we're now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level. Game developers are already taking advantage of these gains as they target SteamOS for their new releases."

Valve said "hundreds" of games are running natively on SteamOS currently, and announcements about triple-A titles for 2014 are on the way.

The living room-friendly features that SteamOS will implement include the recently-announced family sharing option, in-home streaming of games from an existing PC or Mac to your SteamOS device, music and TV services (Valve said expect more about that soon) and more family-friendly settings.

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