Last week, Valve has told us they would be making 3 announcements which would mark an expansion to their universe. Rescently, the first such announcement came forward in the form of revealing SteamOS, a new Linux distribution built around the Steam platform. They will be releasing it and forever keeping it free to download for everyone. Now I can already hear a lot of gamers laughing at the concept that Valve is backing Linux and a few predicting their doom, but they might want to stop and think about that. It could and would never replace Windows overnight, but Valve is doing some things right here and leveraging their own weight in the PC world in a way that could well lead to trouble for MS.
In order to understand this, you need to review the information Valve has released themselves. Among the details are things we always expect about a Steam announcement like this, talking about how they want to bring PC gaming into the living room and making it easy to have multiple users on the same machine (and even making mention to their new family features where if a trusted account installed a game on the machine, the others can also play the game pretty much at will) as well as for any OS like music, video, and general functionality we all expect out of any PC we use. But there is a small detail in the post that a lot of people probably overlooked that stuck out like a sore thumb to me:
“Hundreds of great games are already running natively on SteamOS. Watch for announcements in the coming weeks about all the AAA titles coming natively to SteamOS in 2014. Access the full Steam catalog of nearly 3000 games and desktop software titles via in-home streaming.”
This stand out to me because of one exact word: transition. You see it looks like Valve has realized the biggest issue anyone would have to try to get Linux to take over for gaming is the sheer volume of titles any PC gamer currently would have to give up. Because of this backlog, no gamer is going to move over to any Linux without a lot more games available easily terminally limiting the available audience on the OS and interest of developers to write for it. The cycle simple continues.
But it seems Valve have chosen a different path then trying to upset this status quo. Instead, by allowing users to choose this OS and then by streaming from Steam on their Windows machine to the one running this, they do not force the user to make a choice. They allow them to literally have it all without any extra effort, creating an environment where the gamer can have both libraries active. This has the potential of allowing the Linux audience to grow over time, and with it, the interest of developers to write for it along side, and potentially instead of Windows.
Obviously this can not happen instantly, but for an audience who is used to their library moving with them between machines, a new OS that wishes to have any hope of succeeding needs to have the ability to provide that, and this is the first time I can say Linux has it. Add this to Valve backing it, and the potential just might be here.