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Valve co-founder Gabe Newell has been very outspoken in his criticism of Windows 8. He viewed the OS as the beginning of the end of PC gaming, in particular because he feared Microsoft's walled garden approach could eventually be used to shut out the competition. It's not really surprising, then, that the first of Steam's big three announcements this week is the introduction of a Linux-based SteamOS.
"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," Valve explains. "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."
Valve claims to have achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and is now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the OS level. According to Valve, game developers are already on board and are working on new releases for SteamOS.
SteamOS introduces four new features to Valve's living room strategy, including in-home streaming (play Windows and Mac games on your SteamOS machine); music, TV, and movies (Valve is working with "media services you know," which we take to mean Netflix and Hulu, or so we hope); family sharing; and family options (profiles, basically).
SteamOS will be available soon as a free download, but we also can't help but think this is part of something bigger, perhaps much bigger. There are two announcements left to go, and if one of them is a Steam Box, you can bet it will be running SteamOS.