Steam OS brings PC gaming to the living room.

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As teased last week, Valve has revealed SteamOS, the operating system that will power its upcoming living room initiative.

According to Valve’s site, “SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen. It will be available soon as a free stand-alone operating system for living room machines.”

“We’ve come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself,” the site continues.

SteamOS will tie in with Steam, and “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.”

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Here is everything we know about the Steam OS:

It’s basically still Steam.

Or that’s what it sounds like, based on Valve’s description: “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,” writes the company. Think thin client, like Google’s browser-driven Chrome OS — just the basics, because that’s all you really need in the living room.

But now with better graphics processing.

So sayeth Valve, anyway, noting it’s “achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and we’re now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating-system level.” Valve says game developers — just “game developers,” no names yet — are already availing themselves of these performance perks “as they target SteamOS for their new releases.”

It’s also … modular?

Valve described SteamOS as a “cooperating system,” in which “each participant is a multiplier of the experience for everyone else.” No, probably not in the sense you might be thinking, à la [email protected], where each user’s processing cycles contribute to some grand process, but metaphorically speaking. This sounds like Valve’s way of saying it plans to make the experience more collaborative, say, than the experience you’re used to having with Apple’s App Store, Microsoft’s Xbox Live or Sony’s PlayStation Network.

According to Valve:

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.

Treat all of that as lofty rhetoric until we get specifics, of course, but in theory … well, at least I’m intrigued.

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You can stream games from your Windows or Mac system to a SteamOS machine.

The strongest argument that a Steam Box is imminent: Valve’s going to let you pipe existing Steam games from PCs around your house, over your home network, straight to your SteamOS machine in the living room. Latency-free (or near enough)? We’ll see.

You can also stream “music, TV, movies.”

Valve says it’s “working with many of the media services you know and love.” Spotify? Netflix? Hulu? Rdio? Amazon? Who knows. Presumably those and many more, assuming — and I think this is a safe assumption — Valve wants to compete in the Roku/Apple TV category.

Plus “Family Sharing,” which we already knew about.

Announced a few weeks ago, this is Valve’s intrepid plan to let you fold in up to 10 friends and family members (you pick), each of whom can access a game you’ve paid for, earn their own achievements and save their own games.

And last but not least, “Family Options.”

Don’t want to see what your parents are playing? Want to tweak your Steam library distinct from someone else’s, using the same SteamOS interface? Valve promises “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.”

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Valve has two more announcements left in the follow-up to this one. It has teased with three symbols the first one which has already is announced which is the Steam OS, the second one hints to the Steam OS, enclosed by maybe a Steam Box, the third one is a little ambiguous. Whatever it is, it’s sure to be new and exciting while many of us are hoping for it to be the next Orange Box, it could be something cloud related and its sharing capabilities or its compatibility is other hardware. The next announcement is on Wednesday at 1 p.m. E.T. If SteamOS was unexpected, bold and at least theoretically a very big deal, imagine what’s on deck next





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