The first of Valve's three ticking clock announcements has reached zero, and now we know what the Seattle-based studio is up to in 2014: a standalone operating system based around the Steam digital distribution platform.
Detailed on Valve's Living Room page, SteamOS, built using the Linux architecture, will run "on any living room machine, will provide access to the best games and user-generated content available." The new OS will offer in-home streaming, allowing players to run their PC and Mac Steam games to their SteamOS box, as well as your now standard media box functions of media streaming, family controls, and family sharing for content.
The release of their own operating system allows Valve to sidestep the ecosystem of Windows and iOS and any potential gates either of those platforms might serve up to developers and Steam's own software. The question is, will gamers purchase a standalone box for Steam? And will hardware manufacturers jump onboard to start offering SteamOS as a standard operating system with living room devices? That will be the true test of SteamOS.
Valve has assured users that SteamOS will be free to download in perpetuity and as a "licensable operating system for manufacturers." As of this writing, Valve has not provided a release date or specs for SteamOS.
Now, to wait two more days for Valve's next announcement...
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