Late last week, Valve teased a series of new announcements set to go live starting on September 23rd. The countdown site mentioned that "soon, we’ll be adding you to our design process, so that you can help us shape the future of Steam."
We finally know what that means.
SteamOS, an operating system based on the pre-existing Linux system, is being built specifically for living-room use.
"Finally, you don’t have to give up your favorite games, your online friends, and all the Steam features you love just to play on the big screen. SteamOS, running on any living room machine, will provide access to the best games and user-generated content available."
It seems to be the natural evolution of the Big Picture mode that Valve announced in 2011, and aims to bring the PC gaming experience into the living room. Valve said that SteamOS takes advantage of "living room machines" as a standalone - and free - operating system.
"Steam is not a one-way content broadcast channel, it’s a collaborative many-to-many entertainment platform, in which each participant is a multiplier of the experience for everyone else. With SteamOS, “openness” means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they've been able to. Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. Gamers are empowered to join in the creation of the games they love. SteamOS will continue to evolve, but will remain an environment designed to foster these kinds of innovation."
We're still not entirely sure what "living room machine" means - it could very well reference one of the Steam boxes, or something that Valve hasn't announced yet. Under the "In-home Streaming" section of the site, Valve mentions the "SteamOS machine" as a separate entity from a PC - what exactly that entails, we don't know yet.
The website also mentions Family Sharing - a feature that just went into beta - which means that Valve could also being planning to release the feature alongside the new OS, along with several other streaming features.
It's an interesting direction for the company - bringing the PC experience to the living room has never been attempted before (console RTS games don't count). Valve still has plenty left up its sleeve - we're still waiting on two more announcements - and it'll be interesting to see where they go from here.