Valve has announced a Linux-based operating system called SteamOS, which will be released to customers and manufacturers as a free download. The company believes that the OS will aid Linux in becoming a more suitable platform for gaming.
The OS will be fully supported by Valve and will be continuously worked on to improve the graphics performance and general driver stability. Valve also says that multiple AAA games will be available to play and natively run on SteamOS in 2014.
“As we’ve been working on bringing Steam to the living room, we’ve come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself. SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen. SteamOS will be available soon as a free download for users and as a freely licensable operating system for manufacturers,” said Valve.
The company will be incorporating custom drivers that have been optimised for the OS and pre-qualified by Valve’s internal testing. Valve says they have made progress with performance and are now working with game developers to have the OS ready for new game releases.
Valve’s vision for the OS is wide-reaching and quite ambitious and the company makes some promises for the future. “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,” said Valve
“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. Watch for announcements in the coming weeks about all the AAA titles coming natively to SteamOS in 2014,” said Valve.
Valve also promises a raft of features for SteamOS users. Computers running SteamOS will be able to stream games from another computer in the house, Family Sharing will be baked into the Steam client, and there will also be “Family Options” or what I’d like to think of as parental controls, which will allow you to select which games your family can play in your library.
In addition, SteamOS aims to become the music and media hub of your TV and home theatre. Valve will be working with media streaming service providers to bring access to these services to SteamOS. While they don’t go into any great detail, this could mean that services like Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify will be supported.
How Valve achieves critical mass for SteamOS to make any dent is still a mystery. Steam For Linux itself only has a few hundred indie titles available for the open platform and most users don’t want the hassle of running WINE, or dual-booting with Windows just for games.
With Valve backing the OS in addition to driver support and optimisation, it makes sense for the company to also run a fully supported version of WINE (WINE Is Not an Emulator) with minimal effort on the users’ part to get games running, as a stop-gap while the industry catches up.
Valve’s next announcement will follow in approximately 47 hours at the time of writing.