SteamOS: who is it for exactly? – opinion

Tuesday, 24 September 2013 10:16 GMT By Dave Cook

SteamOS was announced last night to much excitement across the internet. Now he’s had a chance to sleep on it, VG247′s Dave Cook talks about some of the feedback he’s seen so far.

I absolutely didn’t see SteamOS coming last night. Like many gamers, I watched the countdown on Valve’s teaser site fritter away, fully expecting to see a Steambox console announcement at the end.

Instead, we were introduced to SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system designed to bring Steam into the living room in a more fluid and accessible manner. Valve founder Gabe Newell is a keen admirer of Linux, and its malleable nature, so it’s little surprise to see the company using it as their operating system’s base.

SteamOS is just one of three new announcements due from Valve, so its possible that the Steam Box reveal is currently in the mail. There’s already a sense that the company is keen to tear down the barriers between the old notion of PCs or laptops being resigned to studies or bedrooms, and to establish them as a focal point in the family home.

Key to this vision is the ability to stream content from a SteamOS device to any living room appliance with a screen. I saw a few gamers last night exerting a degree of caution in regards to this promise, seeing as there is a potential for lag between your native device and the receiving screen, but as we all surely know by now, Valve is smart. It’s a company that solves problems and thinks hard about solutions. It’s not infallible of course, but I’m certain Gabe and his posse wouldn’t settle for a mediocre service.

But those raising concerns have a point. Sure, SteamOS streaming isn’t cloud-based, so concerns regarding broadband speed needn’t necessarily apply to the same degree as say, Gaikai. We recently saw Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida expressing doubt over Gaikai’s launch in Europe due to the regions broadband services. I doubt we’ll see the same level of logistical issues with SteamOS, but I think many of you would like to see it running in front of the naked eye first before putting lag concerns to bed. It’s understandable.

Personally, I can’t wait to see SteamOS in action and to try it for myself. It’s free after all, and from what Valve stated yesterday, it seems that it’s a platform engineered with gaming at the forefront. It’s likely it will be robust and support a wide range of gaming tech. With the promise of hundreds of native games coming in 2014, as well as streaming support for Steam’s existing library, it’s going to get off to a solid launch in terms of content alone.

It’s an exciting prospect for someone like me, as I recently saved up for a new gaming rig to use like a console in my living room. With Big Picture mode enabled, I’m having a blast playing Steam games on my telly. So absolutely, SteamOS speaks to me. I can take or leave the promised music, TV and movie services, but they’re a nice little addition for others I’m sure.

All this said and done, I’ve seen a lot of people expressing some confusion as to who, exactly SteamOS is for. Many of them have big, expensive rigs away from their living room and are entirely content to separate their PC space from their living space. Others don’t want a second operating system when they’re already perfectly happy and familiar with Windows, Mac OS, or existing Linux set-ups. For many people, dual-booting two OS at the same time simply isn’t an attractive option.

Does – for argument’s sake – SteamOS offer the same functionality as Windows to the extent that you can swap one OS for the other? Can I run Microsoft Word and Photoshop through it? Can I install Chrome and fire up Spotify? Or is it purely a game and media launcher solely designed for the purpose of streaming content to other devices? Is it actually an alternative to Windows in full, or is it a service to be used on top?

These are all questions I saw raised last night, and while I’m personally not bothered or concerned, I think these are things people really want to know about. I think it largely has to do with how potentially disruptive SteamOS can be. Should it offer a free alternative to Windows, then that potentially breaks a decades-long monopoly on the OS market. It’s exciting and a little unnerving to think about. Most of us know Windows like the back of our hands, so to see something new come along can get us a little nervous.

These are all broad questions and stray observations I made while reading your comments, and those on other sites last night and this morning, so I’m not saying anything concrete here as the jury’s still out.

What I would like to do however is to continue the discussion further. So with that in mind, what do you think of the above?

Let us know below.

At the time of writing. Announcement two will drop in 31 hours.

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