Valve Announces SteamOS – A Linux-Based System For Gaming

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The open source OS will be used to stream PC games and access media services on a living room TV

Software and video game developer Valve has announced SteamOS, a free Linux-based operating system that was designed for the living room TV.

The software allows users to stream games from their PC to a larger screen and access popular music and video services, along with community features of the Steam game distribution platform.

The source code will be freely available to manufacturers who want to develop their own hardware for the new operating system. Valve is expected to launch the first machine designed for SteamOS later this week, long-rumoured to be called the Steam Box. At the moment, it is not clear whether this device will feature gaming-grade hardware, much like traditional gaming consoles, or rely on the cloud for processing power.

There’s no information on the availability of SteamOS, other than it will be ready for download “soon”.

Linux for gamers

Valve rose to fame in the 90s as the developer of the immensely popular Half-Life series, but managed to stay relevant thanks to the Source game engine and Steam – a leading PC game distribution platform with around 50 million users, which started selling non-gaming software in 2012.

SteamSteam is built around community features such as forums, achievements and leaderboards. In 2012, Valve was estimated to be worth at least $3 billion, mostly due to the success of this platform.

SteamOS liberates Steam from the confines of a PC, allowing the software to run on virtually any device with an Internet connection. “SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen,” explains the announcement on the Valve website.

Earlier this month, managing director Gabe Newell told the audience at LinuxCon that the gaming giant has used Linux servers on the back end since 1999. “Linux is the future of gaming,” said Newell.

Obviously, the OS will not run games on the Linux kernel straight away – this would limit the selection to just a few titles. Instead, it will allow users to experience familiar Windows and Mac games in the comfort of their living room.

SteamOS features automatic updates to both the operating system and the games, with all user data saved to the cloud. Valve says it has achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and is currently working on audio performance and reductions in input latency.

“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,” says the website.

Besides offering new functionality, SteamOS could eventually make Valve less reliant on the PC market, which has been in decline for the last two years as more consumers opt for mobile devices.

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