Valve Announce Free Operating System, SteamOS

By Ishaan . September 23, 2013 . 10:30am

Valve have announced a new Linux-based operating system specifically designed around their Steam service and online store—it’s called SteamOS, and its purpose is to let you access your Steam games in the living room via streaming from an existing PC. On the Steam website, Valve write:

 

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. It will be available soon as a free stand-alone operating system for living room machines.

 

SteamOS supposedly offers “significant performance increases” in graphical processing, and Valve say they’re currently pursuing audio improvements and reductions in input latency as well. The OS will also support media and music streaming services.

 

The SteamOS operating system will be available as a free download soon, and will also be available as a freely licensable operating system for hardware manufacturers.

 

The goal of SteamOS, Valve say, is to allow users to have the ability to alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they’re using. The operating system appears to be one of three steps in a Valve “living room” strategy. Two more steps in their plan look like they will be revealed soon.


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  • http://simplephilistine.wordpress.com/ Arla

    I don’t get how this is gonna be any simpler than just hooking up a PC via HDMI if it still relies on a powerful PC. “living room machine” is also vague as hell.

    I’ll wait for a full unveiling and details of how it all works to get excited.

    • InfectedAI

      This is more for an HTPC. It’s not a PC replacement. If you don’t see the point in HTPCs then you won’t see the point in this. It’s also for someone who wants the console like experience. So maybe a 360/PS3 gamer whose not quite ready to make the full jump.

      • HansKisaragi

        but you need to go full jump to play most of the games.

        • InfectedAI

          Not really. There are plenty of games that have full controller support and Steam gives console players a familiar interface.

  • malek86

    Can’t say I’m interested until they actually sort out the compatibility part. Streaming is nice and all, but only if you like playing in SD resolutions, otherwise lag would be too much.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

      Actually, they said it’d be little to no lag during the conference.

      • malek86

        Yeah right. Do you need a 802.11ac router and wifi cards on both your client and server, hopefully with both your PC and your TV in the same room?

        Because I know for a fact that current wifi signal, even N, gets cut by almost half just as soon as you move one wall away from the router. Valve better hope that people have small houses, or at least that their PCs and TVs are close enough to the router.

        Believe me, I have a Wii U, and as soon as I go into another room, the signal becomes crap, and we are talking about a 840×480 picture. I don’t think my house walls are made of plutonium. Also the Wii U has an extra dedicated wifi-N radio just for streaming. Normal PCs usually only have one radio so they also have to share bandwidth with the internet connection.

        I can see this maybe working with ethernet. But with wifi… dunno. Certainly not in HD resolutions. Maybe if AC gets more widespread in the future. For now, not so much.

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

          I’m not going to refute your claims but I’m taking them for their word for the moment until they can be proven otherwise. Using the Wii U as a base doesn’t necessarily facilitate as a truth, though. They would have little reason to lie when they’re trying to sell something equivalent to the birth of iOS and mobile gaming.

          • malek86

            I’m not saying they would lie (and I certainly am not going to refute a company’s product so easily), I’m just saying they probably aren’t telling the whole truth.

            It might be kinda like OnLive: they promised it would “play well”. In practice, that was very subjective, as OnLive often sucked, unless your connection was awesome (and even then, it often still sucked).

            Keep in mind the streaming is pretty much just a hold-out solution to the compatibility problems of Linux. In the future, they will have much better compatibility for games, so they might not need it anymore. But for now, they needed to be able to sell a Steambox without Windows while still guaranteeing full compatibility with their catalogue. This was admittedly the only possible solution, albeit with many caveats.

            Certainly it’s not for everyone. If you have, say, a G router, you can forget about this. Also if your PC is too far from the TV. But at least those with a specific home situation should be able to enjoy it… kinda like Kinect, when you think about it.

            This thing is certainly going to become better with time, but the current streaming feature seems more geared toward a future that is not the present. It might be more interesting in 2015.

          • malek86

            I’m not saying they would lie (and I certainly am not going to refute a company’s product so easily), I’m just saying they probably aren’t telling the whole truth.

            It might be kinda like OnLive: they promised it would “play well”. In practice, that was very subjective, as OnLive often sucked, unless your connection was awesome (and even then, it often still sucked).

            Keep in mind the streaming is pretty much just a hold-out solution to the compatibility problems of Linux. In the future, they will have much better compatibility for games, so they might not need it anymore. But for now, they needed to be able to sell a Steambox without Windows while still guaranteeing full compatibility with their catalogue. This was admittedly the only possible solution, albeit with many caveats.

            Certainly it’s not for everyone. If you have, say, a G router, you can forget about this. Also if your PC is too far from the TV. But at least those with a specific home situation should be able to enjoy it… kinda like Kinect, when you think about it.

            This thing is certainly going to become better with time, but the current streaming feature seems more geared toward a future that is not the present. It might be more interesting in 2015.

          • malek86

            I’m not saying they would lie (and I certainly am not going to refute a company’s product so easily), I’m just saying they probably aren’t telling the whole truth.

            It might be kinda like OnLive: they promised it would “play well”. In practice, that was very subjective, as OnLive often sucked, unless your connection was awesome (and even then, it often still sucked).

            Keep in mind the streaming is pretty much just a hold-out solution to the compatibility problems of Linux. In the future, they will have much better compatibility for games, so they might not need it anymore. But for now, they needed to be able to sell a Steambox without Windows while still guaranteeing full compatibility with their catalogue. This was admittedly the only possible solution, albeit with many caveats.

            Certainly it’s not for everyone. If you have, say, a G router, you can forget about this. Also if your PC is too far from the TV. But at least those with a specific home situation should be able to enjoy it… kinda like Kinect, when you think about it.

            This thing is certainly going to become better with time, but the current streaming feature seems more geared toward a future that is not the present. It might be more interesting in 2015.

  • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

    What are “living room machines”?

    • kandori

      Seems like you’ll have to buy a separate PC or HTPC. Unless they announce a Steam console or something.

    • coax

      A machine that’s plugged into the TV and operated while sitting on the couch.

      • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

        Wise guy, eh?

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

          Simple definition, simply. It’s exactly what he said. Many of the machines are typically HTPCs or Home Theater PCs. They’re built low-cost with the idea to play media on TV sets and nothing more. HTPCs are often quite small in comparison to a desktop.

          The ability to stream games off one of these low cost machines from a desktop you already have would serve this idea well. It would basically make it capable of mirror what you have on your computer on a big screen in another part of the house, instead of investing another computer’s worth of parts and potentially double (or far greater) that amount.

        • coax

          Yeah, I wrote it to kinda come off that way. But that’s still what it is, a very vague term.

  • ElAbuelo69

    What’s the point? Why do they want to transform PC into consoles? The versatility of a PC is key to its superiority…c’mon Steam…

    • abysswalker

      I don’t see how are they transforming the PC into a console or taking away it’s versatility…

      From the product page:
      “Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want.”

      Edit:
      From what they have stated this is basically just another distro like ubuntu or mint

  • Brimfyre

    Come on! They missed the obvious name SteamEngine!

    • HansKisaragi

      cant trade mark that

      • Brimfyre

        How about Steam InGen

    • Shady Shariest

      Gabengine, anyone?

  • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

    I have to wonder if there’s a market for this specific solution. For someone to already own a PC, and then to buy another piece of hardware to stream that PC’s content to their TV, and maybe risk losing quality in the process, especially in the case of games.

    It seems like too complicated a step, with too many ifs and buts and maybes involved. Realistically speaking, how cheap would this thing need to be, in order for your Average Joe to take the risk on it?

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

      Some of us comp nerds have multiple bits of hardware strewn around.

      I do. It’ll be used for this.

      Not only that, but consider the people that don’t have that powerful of a unit (a lot; half my clientele still use XP that come through my doors – these systems suck) and assume that the SteamBox is a thing that will…well, be a thing and is priced halfway decently (within coming-gen price range). I can see a lot of people putting money down towards a rig that could feasibly hold everything most people are interested in. Anymore the PC is pretty universal for what people want to communicate across, thanks to the Internet, and Steam’s library is ever-growing.

      • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

        Well, that’s just it. This seems like a hardcore PC nerd thing. (And this is coming from someone who’s primarily a PC gamer.) It almost seems like this product is driven more by ego and ideology than a real market need. Most people just want one device to do everything. This is nowhere close to doing that.

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

          I don’t know necessarily about that. It’s certainly CHEAPER if you’re a hardcore nerd and have the spare parts to participate.

          That’s why I’d like to see what they have to say about SteamBox first and what kind of price point you’re looking at. If it’s competitive, then it’d have some merit more than just those that are pack rats like myself.

    • Tatsuya1221

      I’m sure someone already said it but, my guess is that this is going to be the steambox’s OS, if valve is actively trying to challenge the big 3 console gaming companies, it needed something like this, this also could make linux a viable platform in the long term, which with HL3 being over a decade overdue, i wouldn’t doubt they are thinking ahead.

      • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

        if valve is actively trying to challenge the big 3 console gaming companies, it needed something like this

        I just don’t see how this is supposed to challenge any of the three console developers. If SteamBox does end up using SteamOS (which, as you said, is quite likely), it won’t have native support for anything but Linux games.

        That cuts its library down to a fraction of what other consoles will be able to play without the need for streaming.

        • Tatsuya1221

          It depends on what AAA titles it has lined up from developers, if the steambox is being treated like another console by developers and valve, then it simply comes down to attach rate and the lineup of games, as none of the consoles have stellar launch lineups atm, and many of the killer apps on the consoles have pc ports or specific versions made for them, this would be the time to release a console-pc hybrid like this.

          Basically i’m saying that i believe this is valve’s attempt to enter the living room while also unifying it with their pc market, to do so they would need not only an optimized OS for their pc steambox console(better optimization cuts down on the cost of parts), but also a method to keep their windows users from being left out as well as a hardware means to challenge the console makers.

          Will this work?
          That’s a different story, if anyone can pull it off it would be valve, but to do so they would need one heck of a game announcement (something on the order of half life 3 being pc and steambox only) to even stand a chance against the xb1 and ps4 and even then there is the general dislike of purely digital in the minds of the average console owner’s mind, then of course would come the cost of the steambox itself, though they do have one benefit in the fact that steam has 100+ games on linux already(though many are indie), meaning they do technically have a small but existent base for gamers to start from.

          I’ll admit that i’m reading alot into this, but we’ll know in a few days if i’m right or not i suppose, i simply do not see this as being intended to be a purely streaming OS.

          • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

            Right. There’s a lot of ifs and maybes involved here, so we’ll see what else they have up their sleeve. I would be very surprised if they didn’t have some sort of major software announcement lined up to draw attention to SteamOS.

            That said, one has to wonder if they would risk potentially leaving their Windows fanbase out of the fun with this killer software app, whatever it is. Regardless of Gabe’s feelings about Windows, the things he’s concerned about only impact developers, not the consumer. I use Windows 8 everyday, and I barely notice the difference between it and previous versions of Windows any more.

          • Tatsuya1221

            Honestly they don’t have to abandon the windows side of things, at least not for a while, they could easily make a killer app, say HL3, windows and steamOS(as well as compatible linux distros} exclusive, as well as get some AAA titles with some at least temporary exclusivity rights and it would probably get many console owners to get a steambox if the price is viable, if GabeN’s overall goal is to eventually supersede windows the best way to do it is to get developers to develop more and more for it, the simplest way to do this in my eyes is with a console-pc hybrid, steam OS is more than likely based on the debian core that both ubuntu and mint use(both being more or less the officially supported linux os’s for steam based linux games), making any steam os game also linux ubuntu and mint compatible by default (though with higher spec requirement probably).

            This would in theory make more pc ports happen for linux and likely windows(porting from windows to linux and vice versa is far easier than porting from consoles from my understanding) as well as some originally designed with linux in mind, over time, 5 years to a decade maybe(unless the steambox sold at ps2 or wii numbers, but even with my most rosy of glasses i do not see that happening), it could make the linux market far more viable for pc gamers as well as open the console market to pc style gaming options.

            My point is, that is what i’d do in such a situation especially with the way windows is headed (no matter what your opinion of win 8, win 9 and 10 are looking to follow more of a walled garden strategy than even 8 did), it could if successful, slowly but surely turn not only many console gamers into pc gamers(or at least steam customers), but also get many windows pc users to either dual boot or switch over their operating system to linux, as GabeN’s overall strategy seems to be imo.

            We’ll find out more in a few days i suppose.

  • subsamuel01

    Why is steam trying so hard to compete with consoles. The reason why people buy consoles is because its cheaper and its controller based. People buy PCs and Use steam for quality and key board and mouse gaming. I think they’re trying to appeal to the wrong consumer group.

  • mooken

    Absolutely love this idea.
    My barrier to using my HTPC for gaming has been removed — no longer need beefy hardware, or to re-download/install games.
    For most of my personal gaming needs, a desktop PC is great. For the odd occasion that friends are over, and I only have a Wii? I now have my entire library of couch-co-op games at my fingertips for us to play, zero-hassle.
    I hope it also allows for non-steam games, say, stuff on MAME or Retro Systems.
    Anything/everything Ouya wanted to do, this is doing better.

    • malek86

      As long as the wifi is good enough. The Wii U teaches us that even a 802.11n struggles to send anything more than 800×480 from farther than a wall away.

      FullHD gaming it ain’t. But probably not even HD gaming.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

      This, essentially. I’ve got parts waiting to be used for precisely this.

      Now I just need a 50+”er out in the living room and I’ll be down.

  • Phoenixian Sama

    I’d love to get steam OS on my PS4… Too bad Sony cut Linux service early into PS3. With that partnership they had with Portal 2 though, I wonder if it could happen? Linking Playstation and Steam online would be phenomenal.

  • eilegz

    streaming here and streaming there, they want to make it like its a panacea for everything, the power of the cloud….

    Meanwhile the reality its that carriers, internet service providers are lagging way behind with all the infrastructure needed to make this work with “significant performance” i have my doubts one thing its to stream a video and other to play a streamed game….

    Who knows what will happen but so far here in my country i doubt i see this kind of devices work the way it is.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

      You do know with streaming there is the potential to do so locally, right? They don’t necessarily mean streaming via cloud more than one computer in your house to a much lesser one. That’s the idea they’re selling here for streaming capabilities.

      • eilegz

        by having it locally then what its going to be the point, you still need windows, you still need a titan gpu, you still need a good gigabit switch

        all this cost a lot of $

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

          Not at all on any of this. The idea would be to stream the game content and have your game rig do the work while the SteamOS simply streams it on a lesser HTPC or rig.

          You know I keep posting a lot of these comments but I think Valve needs to clarify on a lot of this. It’s confusing a lot of people.

          • abysswalker

            I think you may skip the Titan GPU (because the idea is that you already have a windows or mac gaming rig so you dont NEED a state of the art GPU) but a good switch is really going to be necessary to handle the HD streaming and the normal network traffic

  • artemisthemp

    Guess I have to find a empty Harddisk and try to install the OS on

  • John Lawson

    why don’t we just use this thing that most laptops and desktops with graphics cards have called ah… aech Dee emm Eye cable and big picture mode?

  • DesmaX

    Plot-Twist: Half-Life 3 will be exclusive to SteamOS
    Just kidding

    But, oh well, I’ll install it on my machine when it’s available. Really interested in the “Performance improvement”

  • MB_cl

    Valve.-”So we have this problem with Windows 8…”
    Microsoft.-”Tough luck.”
    Valve.-”But…”
    Microsoft.-”What? But what? Sorry, what are you going to do about it?”
    Months later Valve announces SteamOS
    Microsoft.-”….SON OF A…”
    —-
    Now every gamer will be able to build it´s own console.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      It isn’t nearly that simple and/or straightforward. Windows is in no danger of losing game support to Linux any time soon.

      • MB_cl

        I agree that windows is in no danger of losing game support anytime soon. But that doesn´t mean that SteamOs is going to be just another Linux distribution and be treated as such or turn into another “Ouya”.

        Also, from all the news I´ve been reading, Steam is looking more and more like what XBox has been trying to sell…
        …ignoring Sports, TV and “dog” of course.

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          Except, Xbox One can run games from the system itself, without the need for streaming. SteamOS (and presumably the SteamBox, since it will use SteamOS) will not be able to do that. It isn’t nearly the same thing.

      • CirnoLakes

        Indeed. Though that doesn’t depend on the definition of “soon”, I suppose, as to how certain that is.

        All other operating systems, from Mac, to iOS, to Ubuntu, to Android, to SteamOS, are all playing a catch up game with Microsoft’s Windows. Because of the simple fact that Windows has over 2 decades worth of better software support than any of these operating systems.

        Most people, most hardware, and most software have been on Microsoft operating systems. And Android, for instance, has been in a rush to compete and get all of the sorts of software that users want. And it’s a very, very uphill battle to get 2 decades worth of Windows types of software users want, on an extremely new operating system like Android. And they’re certainly trying as one of the richest people in the industry outside of Microsoft.

        Gaming is included in that library. Wine just isn’t there yet. There’s loads of software Wine just doesn’t have ease of playing. Recettear just being one game I love being one of them. People go where games are, and Windows has a remarkably large library of games that would take years and years to port. Not to mention abandonware and old games that would be unlikely to be ported officially.

        What I do know, however, is that for the first time in years, Microsoft is getting some major competition is a domain they held a monopoly in. Much better than Mac ever offered as a “savior” against Microsoft back in the 90s. So we very well could see some serious market shifts to Unix-like rather than Windows platforms in the PC world sometime in the next 20 years.

        And 20 years is both ‘soon’ and ‘not soon’ at the same time.

        And, in the meantime, Windows gaming is still a very safe place to invest money as a gaming platform.

    • eilegz

      i wonder how steamOS works with direct X emulated? wine?

      • malek86

        It doesn’t. Like all Linux systems, it only supports OpenGL. DirectX games will have to be streamed from a Windows PC, which is why Windows really isn’t going away anytime soon.

        Valve will obviously try to get as many developers as possible to support OpenGL instead of Direct3D. It will be easy with indies, not so much with bigger devs, who almost all exclusively use Direct3D. I hope they already started, because some next-gen engines are already being prepared.

      • MB_cl

        It think it´s more likely that Direct X games will only be able to be played by streaming a Direct X device like a Windows PC with it´s own steam installation.

        Another alternative is to develop a game with opengl support, which, as far as I undestand, can achieve similar results but the problem is that one is more popular than the other in the gaming industry.

        Puting myself on the publisher´s shoes, I think selling a game hoping that Wine will run it is too risky.

        • abysswalker

          I think Valve could sell support for running Wine on SteamOS. If they only target their platform I don’t see that being too difficult. That could in turn, increase the install base of Linux and the developers could actually start considering OpenGL as a market

        • WyattEpp

          Then there are all the games wrapped with Winelib and distributed and sold. It’s not a proper port, but neither is it especially dire.

    • HansKisaragi

      Still need windows to stream your games.. since most games dont support linux

  • The 15ᵗʰ Angel

    Guys you need to see the “big picture” valve is essentially giving is a build your own console option for those who have the cash to throw at it your console will be as good as you need it to be. Also think about this you can have that super console people have wanted because emulators exists for pretty much every pre current gen system. I’m not saying go out and pirate but if you own the game go ahead and make a back up of it and cram it into your steam box emulator and go to town.

  • Ni ~UNREAL BLACK THINGS~

    the OpenGL VS Direct3D threads will increase in numbers…

  • CirnoLakes

    Free, huh? Great, just like most other Linux distributions.

    With Valve funding funding behind it, perhaps it will turn out even better than Ubuntu. I have several Ubuntu computers. Perhaps this could end up replacing that. Or at least adding as a good addition to my boot selection.

    As a Linux user, I’m really looking forward to seeing how SteamOS turns out.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

      All that Ubuntu and no Mint?

      You should probably look into that.

      • CirnoLakes

        Oh, I’ve tried it.
        I usually end up installing Ubuntu, though.

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

          Ah.

          I run my fileserver and some other computers including work comps with Mint, so I’m biased. :3

  • SirRichard

    Next announcement will be the hardware, and the one after that will be some software to get everyone excited. Three circles, three announcements, Half-Life 3 confirmed, etc.

  • katamari damacy

    Is the 2nd step ??? and the 3rd step Profit?
    I’d rather have Valve reveal that modular PC they were shopping around in Jan. I’d much rather have a PC that I could install Windows on that Valve would develop games optimized for that hardware rather than just changing operating systems.

  • Stranger On The Road

    SteamOS…. hurmmm, sound nice for gaming, but will I really want this to be on my desktop? Wouldn’t it have been better if they announced a set of libraries that a GNU/Linux distribution must have for it to be Steam Client Complaint!

    If this is meant to compete with the consoles then I understand their approach, a static machine that is connected to the TV with a common set of libraries that the developers can target. But if it is also meant to shift the PC gamers to use this OS, then there is more to the PC than gaming. The “in-house streaming” feature says that this could be a small Raspberry Pi (think PS Vita TV) machine connected to your TV with the game still running on a Windows/OSX PC.

    Well, we will have to wait to take it on a test drive, I have a virtual machine waiting for it :-)

    Edit The biggest advantage for the PC over the console is the keyboard and mouse. While many PC gamers have opted to use the Xbox 360 controller, they are not the majority. I really wonder how the market will react to this SteamOS since an Android device could achieve a similar result!

  • Aristides

    OMG the 3DO lives! But with the Steam brand and games XD

    • CirnoLakes

      This doesn’t have anything in common with the 3DO. Why on earth are you making that comparison?

      • Aristides

        Well in this case it’s an OS instead of actual hardware but I compare it in the sense that 3rd parties would essentially make their own “game consoles” using the OS

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