On Monday Valve announced SteamOS. It has been rumored for over a year that Valve was working on a living room console, and it looks as if SteamOS is the beginning of that enterprise. Monday’s announcement was the first of three major announcements from Steam in the next week. SteamOS is a completely free Open Source gaming OS.
What is SteamOS?
Valve has positioned SteamOS to be completely free “forever”. Their goal is to get both the homebrew computing enthusiast community and manufacturers on board building living room game consoles using the new OS. SteamOS will have four main living room focused features besides native and streaming support for Steam games:
- Computer to Console Streaming – This will allow users to stream games from a computer to a SteamOS box that is attached to a TV. This is known as In-Home Streaming.
- Multiple Steam User Support – This will allow families to share one steam account.
- Media and Entertainment Services – Presumably this means things like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video will be coming to SteamOS. According to the announcement: “We’re working with many of the media services you know and love.”
- Parental Controls – Will allow parents to decide if their kids can play certain titles.
In addition to those four features, SteamOS will have hundreds of games that can be run natively. It will also be able to accept any Steam game through In-Home streaming. Valve expects to make many more announcements regarding games for SteamOS in 2014.
Finally, Valve plans to constantly update SteamOS. These updates will bring many new features and fixes on a constant basis. According to Valve, SteamOS will “continue to deliver not only valuable game updates directly from content makers, but also regular additions and new features to the OS itself.”
Why is it a Big Deal?
There have been many hardware plays for the living room over the last couple of years, even outside of the big companies Microsoft and Sony. Consoles like the Ouya, and the Android Game Stick have tried to use the Open Source nature of Android to make a cheap gaming console possible.
SteamOS is the first step by Valve in their mission to bring Steam to the living room. A true Open Source OS, based on Linux, will not only allow them to create their own SteamBox, but will also allow other companies to innovate and create using the OS.
“With SteamOS, “openness” means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they’ve been able to. Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. Gamers are empowered to join in the creation of the games they love.” – Valve Steam OS Announcement [Source]
What’s Next For Steam?
It was widely anticipated that Monday’s announcement would be for the long-rumored SteamBox. For those of you who don’t know, the rumors say that Valve is looking to actually create their own living room based gaming console. Obviously that announcement wasn’t the one given on Monday. Valve announced, however, that they have two more major announcements relating to the new SteamOS coming up this week, the first coming up on Wednesday.
It would be logical to assume that we’re going to see some hardware announcements at the Wednesday event. The third event may be focused on games and additional software.
There are still major questions surrounding the SteamBox. First, is Valve actually making this hardware, or are they contracting out with another manufacturer? When will we see it come to market? How much will it cost? What will the experience be like? All of these questions should be answered when they finally announce the hardware.
Creating a completely new OS and having people adopt it is very difficult, especially when gamers are entrenched in the Sony and Microsoft ecosystems. PC gaming companies have had an even harder time of it, because PC gamers love their keyboards and mice. Valve has a real chance here however, because there is a vibrant market of PC gamers out there that love Steam and love the idea of being able to take PC games to the TV. It will all just depend on how well they pull it off.
This same community is full of modders and hackers that will love the Open Source nature of SteamOS. It will allow them to create their own little customizable OS without ruining the game experience.
One of the big problems that Android had when it first launched was controlling copyrighted material. A lot of DRM wasn’t supported, which was why Flash eventually made its doomed way to the mobile phone. It will be interesting to see how Steam has solved the open source DRM issues. Creating an open OS based on Linux is great, but it gives user’s license to mess around with things they shouldn’t be messing around with.
Are you excited about the next two Valve announcements? Talk back in the comments below!