Valve Announces SteamOS, A Linux-based “Gaming Experience Built For The Big Screen”


It’s official – Valve is serious about dominating your living room. Big Picture was one thing, but in an announcement today the company has revealed that it will bringing an entire operating system to your TV in the very near future. Fittingly, they’re calling it SteamOS.

According to Valve, SteamOS “combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen.” The Linux architecture is no surprise (what else would it be built on?), but more interesting are some of the OS’s unique features and capabilities. Valve says that with SteamOS they’ve been able to “achieve significant performance increases in graphics processing,” and that audio and latency issues are in the process of being dealt with as we speak. To clarify, games on SteamOS will run natively, without Windows or Mac OS X installed. SteamOS is it’s own platform, and though these are early days, imagining a world where all Steam releases run on SteamOS is a beautiful thought indeed.

In regard to the opensource nature of Linux and thus SteamOS as well, Valve had the following to say.

Steam is not a one-way content broadcast channel, it’s a collaborative many-to-many entertainment platform, in which each participant is a multiplier of the experience for everyone else. 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. SteamOS will continue to evolve, but will remain an environment designed to foster these kinds of innovation.

The possibilities with this kind of freedom are staggering – imagine downloading a game, and then an entire user-customized theme or layout of the entire OS, entirely tailored to playing said game in the most optimal way possible. Something like that is just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s clear that Valve wants to tap into both its savvy userbase and the general good PR associated with “openness” for its fledgling OS.

SteamOS is still fresh out of the oven, and will be available “soon” according to Valve’s splash page. They were kind enough to mention the In-home Streaming feature, which will let you stream your Windows and Mac Steam games over local Wifi to the TV with SteamOS attached. If you have that kind of setup, there’d be no reason not to use the new platform.

This is the first of three planned Valve announcements this week, so SteamOS may be just the beginning. Is a new Steambox to accompany the OS just over the horizon? Should Sony and Microsoft be fearing for their lives? All we can do is wait, but if anyone were to have a console-busting trump card up their sleeve, it’d be Valve.