The battle for control of the living room intensifies as Valve, creator of the popular digital games distribution service Steam, announced a new Linux-based operating system targeting living room devices and the TV. Designed to push the boundaries of living room entertainment, SteamOS will be available for download entirely free of charge, and is likely to be launched sometime in 2014.
"At the core of SteamOS is everything you already love about Steam"
As it is primarily focused on delivering games to the TV, SteamOS will include several living room perks, building on the traditional features of the Steam software.
In-home streaming over a home network will enable gamers to stream their favorite games from their PCs or Mac computers to their SteamOS machine in the living room. Valve is also planning to throw "music, TV and movies" into the mix, which could turn SteamOS into a serious competitor for not only video game consoles, but also Roku and Apple TV.
Family sharing - an extension of a new feature planned for Steam, which allows gamers to share their games with a small group of friends - will grant members of a household the ability to take turns playing one another's games, create multiple libraries, earn individual achievements, and have unique game data saved into the Steam cloud.
Deeming the living room "family territory," Valve also promises a suite of additional "family options" to give users more control over their SteamOS experience. With the open nature of the new OS, Valve explains that it seeks to empower both gamers and content creators to help shape living room entertainment.
SteamOS will likely ship with Valve's "Steam Box"
But SteamOS isn't the only thing that Valve has in store for 2014. The company promised that two more important announcements are to be made before the end of the week. One of them is believed to be what the gaming media has dubbed the "Steam box" - a PC-based entertainment device for the living room, which will most likely be running the SteamOS. However, since SteamOS is to be freely downloadable, it could technically run on any other living room device.
The second major announcement is rumored to be the fabled Half Life 3, which gamers have been expecting for nearly a decade, though it is hard to determine at this time if Valve has any intention to ever release it.
Journalists have speculated that the Steam Box would compete primarily with the Xbox One and the PS4, and would have the advantage of bringing a vast library of thousands of PC games to the table, directly from day one.
As it stands, the main drawback of Linux operating systems is that games are typically not as well optimized as they are for Windows. However, Valve is actively working to increase performance in terms of graphics and sound, and is pitching the SteamOS to game developers, claiming that they are already taking it into consideration future releases.