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IT & Systems Management

Valve announces SteamOS, an operating system built for the living room

It's not Half Life 3. Not yet, anyway.

Valve announced details of SteamOS on Monday, the first of three announcements the company has promised this week concerning its Steam games retail service and Steam Box home console.

SteamOS is a Linux-based operating system "built around Steam itself," according to the reveal site.

"SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen," it continues. "In SteamOS we have achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and we're now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level."

Presumably SteamOS functions as the interface for the console Valve is expected to reveal this week. While hooking a PC up to a television to play games is already common practice, Windows is clumsy to operate while sitting on a couch across the room. SteamOS, like Valve's already-released Steam Big Picture Mode, should make it easier to get into games, install drivers, and the like in a living room environment.

Valve also promises, "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," and that, "Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want."

Though SteamOS is Linux-based, Valve confirmed that Mac and Windows-based games will run on the new system. As expected, the operating system includes "in-home streaming"--your existing computer can stream games over your home network to your SteamOS machine. Latency has always been the problem with streaming games because they require a large amount of data and accurate input response; we'll have to wait and see whether Valve adequately solves those issues upon launch.

Valve also reiterated its new family sharing plan, which allows titles to be shared across accounts, and announced it is working with "many of the media services you know and love" to bring them to both Steam and SteamOS.

SteamOS is free to download and install on any system, with a release date of "soon" according to the site.

We'll hold judgment for now, though some developers are certainly excited:

The original Steam Living Room site from last week has been updated with a slightly-larger picture of a blue sun and a new 48 hour countdown. Stay tuned for the second-of-three announcements on Wednesday.

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