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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 23, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Valve unveils SteamOS, a PC operating system for living room

Bellevue game giant Valve today announced that it’s releasing an entertainment-oriented PC operating system designed for “living room” computers.

Called SteamOS, it’s based on Linux and an interface that Valve developed to run its Steam game service on TVs and other large screens.

By producing a full operating system as some predicted, Valve is challenging Microsoft, Apple and others developing PC-like systems to deliver games and online media content to TV sets. Valve’s advantages include its huge library of premium games, a global fan base and its use of an open platform that contrasts sharply with the closed-garden, app-centric models that others are pursuing.

SteamOS will be “available soon as a free stand-alone operating system for living room machines,” Valve said in an online post this morning.

Further announcements are coming this week from Valve, which is widely expected to release some sort of PC hardware as well, perhaps a “SteamBox” PC loaded with the new operating system.

Microsoft tried for decades to propagate living room PCs and at one point more than 10 million people around the world were using its Media Center features to record and play their TV shows and manage their media collections. But the software giant has cut back on Media Center development, turned the Xbox into a media hub and removed the Media Center from Windows 8, offering it instead as a $10 add-on package for those interested.

It remains to be seen whether Valve can reinvigorate the living room PC category, but the company reaches more than 50 million people with its Steam online game service. Its moves also come as a new generation of tech-savvy TV viewers is looking for alternatives to the traditional delivery system.

Features of SteamOS include in-home streaming of games stored on Windows and Mac computers in the home, family sharing of game libraries and parental control features.

Valve is also planning to have a suite of third-party media apps available. It said that it’s “working with many of the media services you know and love. Soon we will be bringing them online, allowing you to access your favorite music and video with Steam and SteamOS.”

To compete with the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii as an entertainment hub, Valve will need to line up the standard suite of media services, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, YouTube and Pandora.






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