Valve’s SteamOS Announcement Screams New Hardware

Valve is doing that thing it does where it trickles out a series of big announcements over the course of a week, and these announcements promise to be very big indeed. The first of a trio from Valve is that the company is producing SteamOS, a free, Linux-based, standalone operating system that will run on “living room machines”.

The OS is built around Steam itself, so it’s geared toward gaming, and in particular, gaming on the big screen in your living room. Valve calls it a “many-to-many entertainment platform” where content makers can directly connect with customers and users have the freedom to alter the software and hardware as they see fit.

There are four key features of SteamOS: in-home streaming, so you can play PC and Mac games on your SteamOS machine; allowing users to use the SteamOS machine as a set-top box of sorts for streaming music, movies, and TV from a variety of sources; Family Sharing, so you can swap games with family members (while saving your own game progress to the cloud); and Family Options to give users more control over which titles various users can see.

Valve's SteamOS screams "new hardware"

The new features, coupled with some key phrases on the SteamOS site, scream “new hardware”. Clearly, there’s going to be a box of some kind, and it will offer media streaming as well as gaming. It appears that it will be designed to sit alongside your PC, as the page says “turn on your existing computer and run Steam as you always have”.

Further, it seems that Valve is leaning on hardware partners to develop the actual boxes but believes that it offers the platform that will facilitate faster and better innovation in the living room. And of course, the fact that SteamOS will be free for individual users and is “freely licensable” for manufacturers indicates that instead of partnering with just one hardware maker, it’s letting everyone have a crack at it.

It’s not clear if SteamOS will run on standard PCs as well as “SteamOS machines”, but it’s reasonable to believe that it will; we also wouldn’t be surprised if Valve released its own Steam box running SteamOS alongside offerings from a variety of hardware makers.

We’ll know more in a couple of days when Valve makes its second announcement; and we’ll know still more after that when the third one lands later this week.