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SteamOS announced by Valve


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First in the series of planned announcements, Valve has announced SteamOS,

 

SteamOS is a brand new operating system based on Linux that's designed to be used in the living room.

 

New features to SteamOS and Steam include:In-home Streaming

You can play all your Windows and Mac games on your SteamOS machine, too. Just turn on your existing computer and run Steam as you always have - then your SteamOS machine can stream those games over your home network straight to your TV!

Local streaming is a clever way of circumventing the issue of compatibility with the vast library of non-Linux Steam games. The tech exists and it's solid - it's comparable to the WiFi streaming function of an Nvidia Shield (hopefully without the ridiculous tech requirements) or the streaming capability of the PlayStation 4 and Vita, where a beefy base unit can be used to stream high fidelity games to other devices at low latencies.

 

Music, TV, Movies

We’re working with many of the media services you know and love. Soon we will begin bringing them online, allowing you to access your favorite music and video with Steam and SteamOS.

Another interesting feature that may put the (yet unannounced) device in competition with other devices like Apple TV, Roku and of course the media functionality of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. I wonder if Valve have the clout to incorporate major streaming companies like Netflix from launch.

 

Family Sharing

In the past, sharing Steam games with your family members was hard. Now you can share the games you love with the people you love. Family Sharing allows you to take turns playing one another’s games while earning your own Steam achievements and saving your individual game progress to the Steam cloud.

A feature that has already been announced, but it would be great to hear more specifics about how this works. My biggest hope is that it'll now be possible to be logged into a single Steam account in more than one place - no more logged in and out of accounts just to jump between two different computers, a little bugbear of mine.

 

Family Options

The living-room is family territory. That’s great, but you don’t want to see your parents’ games in your library. Soon, families will have more control over what titles get seen by whom, and more features to allow everyone in the house to get the most out of their Steam libraries.

Again, it would be wonderful to get more details on this. My son will be coming to the age and will be wanting to play PC games. Being able to share games between would be fantastic, instead of having to setup a brand new account and potentially doubling up on purchases. And the possibility of creating a PCGamingWiki 'family' account for testing purposes is an intriguing proposition.

 

Thoughts

Whilst the big announcement here is SteamOS the Linux platform, I don't think this is the real news. Valve have thrown their weight behind Linux, but we have yet to hear of other major third party support in the 'AAA' arena announce simultaneous multiplatform Linux game releases in the near future. Until third-party Linux support gains more traction, it'll be tough to maintain a Linux-only gaming environment, especially if this means ditching support for the enormous PC gaming back catalogue on Windows and Mac.

 

Thankfully we'll be able to maintain compatibility with Windows and Mac games by streaming them from another PC. For me, this is the really big news - being able to maintain whatever OS I want my HTPC, and stream games from my main beefy desktop. Or - maintain a single 'game server' running Windows, and stream to multiple low-end devices, e.g. a low-price HTPC, a netbook, etc.

Of course the next announcement is likely to be something to do with the specific hardware of the oft-rumoured 'Steambox'. Any guesses as to what this will look like? My bet is on multiple pricepoints, with one being a budget streaming box similar to the PS Vita TV, and one being a hefty gaming HTPC similar to the Xi3 Piston, both running SteamOS.

 

 

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If this has Spotify and Netflix support it could absolutely wreck the PS4 and Xbox One, given enough of a marketing push. I can't wait :D

Yes I can definitely see this happening. I just wonder what kind of hardware they will push out, what the worldwide release is like and whether they get the pricing correct. Part 1 has been a definite hit so far.

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Local streaming is a clever way of circumventing the issue of compatibility with the vast library of non-Linux Steam games. The tech exists and it's solid - it's comparable to the WiFi streaming function of an Nvidia Shield (hopefully without the ridiculous tech requirements) or the streaming capability of the PlayStation 4 and Vita, where a beefy base unit can be used to stream high fidelity games to other devices at low latencies. 

 

Once they have all the kinks worked out with local streaming there is no reason why they can't stream over the internet with the games run on their Steam cluster, one near each major city to minimize roundtrip latency. It would make even the most demanding games playable on integrated graphics. Why stop with games? Music, movies, and everything else you can think of.

 

Let's move a few years into the future. You'll have Steam streaming from the internet to your phone and your phone outputting to your TV at 1080p. Possibly wirelessly. You'll have a wireless controller paired to your phone which might also pair to your wireless headphones or to your wireless 5.1/7.1 speakers. Your phone is your console. All you need to buy is a controller and a subscription to Steam. 

 

Yes, there is an issue of latency so it won't be ideal for all games, but for not owning a PC, laptop or a console (only a TV, phone and a controller) this is pretty good.

 

And yes, I know OnLive does something similar with its console and wireless controller. I think in the near future we'll see the elimination of that console entirely.

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And yes, I know OnLive does something similar with its console and wireless controller. I think in the near future we'll see the elimination of that console entirely.

An exciting proposition, I hope we do get this kind of feature as an option. However, I seriously doubt this would completely replace the local installation of games entirely in the future.

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I really doubt any potential streaming solution from Valve would be available worldwide (OnLive and Gaikai certainly aren't) so that right there greatly reduces its usefulness for many if not most gamers. There is also the problem of bandwidth use to consider; in many countries data caps are strictly finite, so constantly devouring it with every minute of gameplay isn't exactly a great selling point. The average shiny new game weighs in at many gigabytes but after that initial download you can play infinitely without much additional bandwidth use.

 

Local streaming from a PC to SteamOS will have lower latency than remote streaming, but at that point why not connect the PC to the TV directly?

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I really doubt any potential streaming solution from Valve would be available worldwide (OnLive and Gaikai certainly aren't) so that right there greatly reduces its usefulness for many if not most gamers. There is also the problem of bandwidth use to consider; in many countries data caps are strictly finite, so constantly devouring it with every minute of gameplay isn't exactly a great selling point. The average shiny new game weighs in at many gigabytes but after that initial download you can play infinitely without much additional bandwidth use.

 

Local streaming from a PC to SteamOS will have lower latency than remote streaming, but at that point why not connect the PC to the TV directly?

 
I think that launching an OnLive/Gaikai competitor is probably in Valve's plans for the future. They have an enormous worldwide content delivery network they can leverage, and it would be easier for them to adapt a high quality game streaming service on the back of this.
 
Demand for bandwidth is also increasing with more use of things like Twitch, Netflix, YouTube, etc. and fibre is also increasing. If you live in a rural area with poor internet or caps, you can just download locally on Steam just as you always have.
 
There is a demand for a gaming internet streaming service but with the right combination of hardware and games. Remember that PlayStation 4's Gaikai will be launching in 2014, and I think it's likely to be much more successful than OnLive was. PlayStation are also release Vita TV, which will eventually also work as a Gaikai streamer as well as a local network streamer.
 
Local streaming will have latency, but if it's anything like Apple TV mirroring, it'll be a compromise that'll be acceptable by the majority of people. There's a lot to say about convenience of just beaming things around without cables, like on a Chromecast, Apple TV or PS4->Vita streaming, which appears to work very well.
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I'm bearish on this. While it's awesome to see Valve spinoff their own flavor of linux and thus create a good target for linux game developers, I don't see this taking off as well as Valve does. Even though the metro shell still sucks, Windows 8 still has backwards compatibility with most games. While the PC gamers are most likely to swap or dual boot OS's to play more games or play them with better performance, I don't see this becoming the OS of choice for gamers for a good long while. At least not until we can play AAA games on it day and date with PC releases.

 

On the other hand it's a good out for developers in case MS pulls something really dumb with the inevitable Windows 9. Plus the ability to stream games from a PC/Mac is a nice feature. SO I guess it could make for a good companion device, but not a replacement.

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