Steam OS is the first in a series of three announcements (the second announcement being hardware related, announced just today) that Valve is making about bringing PC gaming to your living room. What’s different about this particular approach, is that it’s not about plugging your computer into a television and enabling “Big Picture Mode” through Steam. It’s about hardware and software working together to give you a PC gaming experience on your television that you’ve never experienced before.
Not only will developers be able to build games natively for the new os, but you’ll also be able to stream any games purchased through Steam on your PC or Mac straight to your television. So there’s no need to download additional software, or download the games a second time on a new device. People really like Valve, and the service that they provide with Steam, so it’s a pretty safe bet that customers and developers alike are going to be patient with Valve while they get all of their ducks in a row.
Valve has been talking about an open platform for awhile now, and now that both Apple and particularly Microsoft (Windows 8 being a thorn in Gabe Newell’s side) have digital software storefronts, with the Mac App Store, and the Windows Store respectively. This may be the perfect time for Valve to release their own platform, they obviously have the digital business down, the OS is open source, and Valve plans on making the Steam Machines open and upgradable as well. Plus there’s the idea of being more in control of your software, and have more input as far as hardware support goes.
So if you’re a gamer, and if everything goes according to Valve’s plan, is a computer even going to be necessary? Of course, this is a pretty big question. In all honesty being in a post PC landscape, smartphones and tablets can do all of the social media lifting and any web browsing one might do, and if the Steam Machines create a seamless enough experience as an affordable piece of living room hardware, then I ask again, who needs a computer?
2014 isn’t a long ways off, and if I were Sony or Microsoft as far as the battle for the living room goes, I would be a little nervous right now. Valve is coming to fight.