First Steam OS, now Steam Machines - step two of Valve's assault on the living room

First Steam OS, now Steam Machines - step two of Valve's assault on the living room

Valve, the video game developer behind Half-Life and Portal, earlier this week announced SteamOS, its forthcoming Linux-based operating system designed specifically for its game technology, designed for the living room rather than a PC or Mac. Now the company is unveiling the second part of its strategy for home entertainment domination: Steam Machines, dedicated boxes running SteamOS.

Valve says it's working with multiple partners to bring a range of Steam Machines to market in 2014. Little is known about the devices, but Valve says that 300 lucky Steam users will be able to get their hands on the devices early. The boxes will be going out to applicants for a beta program offered by Valve (instructions for signing up are on their web site).

Valve has made no secret of its plans to move Steam gaming from the PC to the living room. The company acknowledged last year that it was working on a dedicated hardware device to play Steam games on.

Just yesterday Valve revealed plans to release SteamOS as a free operating system for anyone running a Linux-compatible computer. Some gamers have scratched their heads about the choice of Linux, as Linux graphic drivers have historically underperformed compared to Windows or even Mac drivers. But Valve says they've tweaked graphics drivers in SteamOS to be quite fast indeed. What's more, a box running SteamOS will enable players to stream live video from a connected Mac or PC over the network.

Since its release for OS X in 2010, Steam has become a strong resource for Mac game players looking for the latest games. The service provides downloads of games from major publishers and independents alike, and offers championship ladders, achievements and a chat framework so players can talk with one another.

Are you excited about adding a set top box running SteamOS to your collection of home entertainment hardware? Or do you prefer to keep your Steam gaming separate? Let me know in the comments.

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Peter Cohen

Mac Managing Editor of iMore and weekend Apple Product Professional at a local independent Apple reseller. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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Reader comments

First Steam OS, now Steam Machines - step two of Valve's assault on the living room


This is a good move for steam. I already play steam games on my imac, and that's cool. But if I want to go into my living room, I would still be kinda tied to my computer. I would like to know what the cost is though. Consoles have the same hardware config, which means games stay optimized. But with a build-your-own, will the parts struggle with processor and graphics heavy games? I think Microsoft dropped the ball with how publishers now have to develop for win8. My question is, what will happen to Source Filmmaker? Currently it's only available on win7. No Mac or Linux support.

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One part of SteamOS is Home Sharing/Streaming of games from your PC and Mac Steam clients. My guess is that these SteamMachines will come in different flavors. We do not yet know the hardware platforms, but I have no doubts that Valve will release both an x86/x64 version and an ARM based version. This way, a Raspberry Pi ($35 ARM-based linux hardware with HDMI, and fully capable of streaming video) could become a streaming front-end for your Steam games from your desktop. The same way that Apple is using the AppleTV to turn your living room TV into a second screen for your Mac, but in this case it is specifically tuned for games.

The x86/x64 version would be more for people that dont have Steam on the desktop (maybe due to not having a powerful enough PC/Mac to handle the games.

As for Source Film Maker, my guess is that it would also be streamed from the desktop (at least for windows users). They are bound to make it available eventually for SteamOS/Linux.