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  (Source: Polygon)
New "console" is expected to run Linux, play Windows-compatible games

For PC gamers who love Linux, but are loathe to give up their games that run on Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows operating system, Valve Corp. thinks it has the solution.  That solution, the "Steam Box", is expected to be announced at a special event on Monday after months of rumors and anticipation.

Rare staffing changes at Valve may have delayed the console, but it appears to be finally ready, much to the joy of eager gamers.

I. Steam Box Strikes Another Blow to Limping Windows Hegemony

At a LinuxCon 2013 keynote, sometimes "CEO" Gabe Newell (Valve employees have no official job titles, although Mr. Newell -- a company cofounder, performs most of the typical functions of a company's CEO) told the audience than next week his company would reveal, "the hardware opportunities we see for bringing Linux into the living room."


And today a launch page with a countdown timer went live.  The countdown points to a Monday unveil and a 2014 ship date for the console with the title:

The Steam Universe is Expanding in 2014

Steam Coundown

The page states:

Last year, we shipped a software feature called Big Picture, a user-interface tailored for televisions and gamepads.
This year we’ve been working on even more ways to connect the dots for customers who want Steam in the living-room.
Soon, we’ll be adding you to our design process, so that you can help us shape the future of Steam.

Reportedly the Linux-based box will be fully compatible with most Windows OS games of the past and present without any complicated custom fiddling.  It is unclear what Linux distribution the console will run, but we should soon find out.  

II. Steam Box Runs Linux -- Could it be a Chrome Box?

Google Inc.'s (GOOG) hot Chrome OS is one potential possibility.  At the 2013 Intel Developer Forum multiple companies showed off Chrome OS laptops (Chromebooks) and desktop machines (Chrome Boxes).  The Steam Box may prove to be the ultimate Chrome Box, with gaming geared modifications to the operating system to provide smooth compatibility with x86 Windows games.

Google Chrome Logo
The Steam Box could be a ChromeBox. [Image Source: Google]

If not Chrome OS, it's likely that Valve will have adopted and modified another popular Linux distribution, such as Canonical's Ubuntu or Mint OS.

Valve's decision to use Linux for its upcoming console, rather than Microsoft's Windows 8/8.1, is a sign of the companies' weakening relationship.  While Valve remains loyal to its customers -- including Windows gamers -- Gabe Newell publicly attacked Microsoft's decision to limit third party app stores like Steam in Windows 8.

The decision is also somewhat a testament to the weakening position of Windows in general.  At the 2013 Intel Developer Forum, Androids -- the mascots of Google Inc.'s (GOOG) industry-leading mobile Linux distribution -- danced outside the convention center in Intel Corp. (INTC) garb.  Intel, long so closely aligned with Microsoft Windows than customers dubbed the pair "Wintel", took a number of subtle jabs at Microsoft during talks and keynotes, while emphasizing a growing number of Android and Chrome OS solutions.

Microsoft is still the world's most used desktop and laptop operating system, but its grip on the market appears to be weakening after Google's stellar Chrome OS and Android successes, along with the chilly reception of Windows 8.

II. Three Steam Boxes Planned?

As for the onboard hardware, Valve may look to use content streamed from Windows servers for its initial implementation, allowing the Steam Box itself to feature minimal hardware in its initial build.  Such a scheme would not be unheard of -- Microsoft's own upcoming Xbox One offers developers the ability to offload processing to the cloud.  Other companies like OnLive have offered streamed, virtualized Windows desktop environments for iOS devices.

In a January interview with The Verge, Gabe Newell described the plan for "good", "better", and "best" hardware solutions, stating:

The way we sort of think of it is sort of "Good, Better," or "Best." So, Good are like these very low-cost streaming solutions that you’re going to see that are using Miracast or Grid. I think we’re talking about in-home solutions where you've got low latency. "Better" is to have a dedicated CPU and GPU and that’s the one that’s going to be controlled. Not because our goal is to control it; it’s been surprisingly difficult when we say to people "don't put an optical media drive in there" and they put an optical media drive in there and you're like "that makes it hotter, that makes it more expensive, and it makes the box bigger." Go ahead. You can always sell the Best box, and those are just whatever those guys want to manufacture. [Valve's position is]: let's build a thing that’s quiet and focuses on high performance and appropriate form factors.

The countdown page features three dots, with only the first one active with the countdown timer to Monday.  The Verge has speculated these dots line up with the different configurations Mr. Newell discussed.

Polygon has shown off one alleged hardware configuration from Xi3 Corp., a maker of small, stylish modular computers:

Steam Box

SteamBox back
A reported Steam Box prototype [Image Source: Polygon]

It's unknown whether this will be one of the final Steam Boxes.

Aside from software and the box's general hardware, one last feature to point out is the inclusiion of the aforementioned Miracast wireless display technology.  Valve has partnered with Miracast to including this technology in the Steam Box -- which will allow it to connect to multiple televisions all around your house, or even to use select mobile devices as a second screen.

Sources: Valve, Gabe Newell on YouTube



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Closed platform
By inighthawki on 9/20/2013 3:58:45 PM , Rating: 4
Does it strike anyone else as odd that Valve is pushing so hard for "Open Platforms," doing things like investing heavily into Linux gaming, and talking about how these are both the future of gaming, yet they then own and operate one of the world's largest closed and proprietary digital distribution applications in the world, and completely control the content that is exposed through it?

Sounds more like they are just investing into a possibly untapped market and using buzzwords like "Open" to attract the people who typically make up this market. Because last I checked, Windows is the majority platform for gaming by a large margin, and is also a completely and 100% open platform that anyone can develop and ship their games on.




RE: Closed platform
By hpglow on 9/20/2013 4:27:14 PM , Rating: 3
When do you have to make "open" software to hand out money to open projects. I'm sure the recipients of the money were upset. Not everyone is an open source snob. Steam didn't get to be number 1 by making poor decisions. You can believe in open source and still be in a position where it doesn't work for your own software or your investors won't allow it. Being an armchair quarterback is free and easy building a multi-billion dollar company takes time and work.


RE: Closed platform
By inighthawki on 9/20/2013 4:42:53 PM , Rating: 3
If you watch Gabe Newell's LinuxCon speech about Linux and the future of gaming, you'll see what I mean. He is very adamant that nothing good can come from a closed environment, and complains about Apple's app store, but then ignores their own closed platform. I just think it seems weird is all, maybe a bit hypocritical.


RE: Closed platform
By Guspaz on 9/20/2013 7:39:23 PM , Rating: 2
Steam has evolved over time from a closed system into a more open one, and Valve has discussed in the past their plans to open it further.

You have to keep in mind that Steam evolved from a platform that was purely for delivering first-party games; there was no need for openness because it was just a glorified auto-update mechanism for their own stuff. Over time it evolved into a platform that other developers could sell their stuff on.

One of the early things that opened up was the ability to have some degree of integration with external games; today, that's represented as being able to have Steam list, launch, and overlay functionality on top of non-steam games. More recently has been Greenlight, which opens a big chunk of the game selection process. Valve is still a bottleneck as a final arbiter there, but has said that they do plan to eventually step out of this role and have the community itself do the final approval on the games; at that point, the platform (as it relates to getting games on steam) will be fully open.

They've moved in that direction in other areas as well. There's the whole item economy aspect to things, for example, which is entirely community driven. Newell has also discussed his desire to move the management of the Steam storefront itself to communities, by giving users themselves the ability to curate their own storefront, separating the wheat from the chaff.

So, is Steam entirely open today? No. They are, however, cautiously moving in that direction. Simply opening the floodgates without the infrastructure and convention in place to manage that process would be a disaster.


RE: Closed platform
By Da W on 9/22/2013 9:35:14 AM , Rating: 2
Is there another meaningful online game distribution Platform? no.
Is there competition? no.
Can you buy a boxed game on a DISC and play it without being logged to steam? less and less.
Will there be a competitor to steam on steam boxes? no.
Will there be a competitor to steam on Windows? yes it might. Microsoft itslef may be one, which is why the fat bastard Valve CEO is angry in the first place.

I will live with my livetiles thank you. I can choose my CPU-GPU-RAM i put in it. I have 2 controlers. May have a kinnect for Windows. 90% of console games will be ported. I will still play blizzard's games.


RE: Closed platform
By Reclaimer77 on 9/20/13, Rating: -1
RE: Closed platform
By inighthawki on 9/20/2013 8:12:10 PM , Rating: 2
No, Windows is not a closed platform, it is only closed SOURCE. Open vs closed platform means something very different, and has nothing to do with open vs closed source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_platform

Steam is a closed platform because only Valve has control over the content that is published. This is the same as the app store on iOS and the stores on Win8 and OSX, which are also closed platforms/environments. The win32 desktop is 100% open.


RE: Closed platform
By Reclaimer77 on 9/21/2013 3:47:43 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Steam is a closed platform because only Valve has control over the content that is published.


That's, conveniently, a pretty generic and broad-based definition you're using. It's not that simple.

That's like saying Wal-Mart isn't open to the public because they control what products are on the shelves...

quote:
This is the same as the app store on iOS


Oh hell no, now I know you're off base big time.

quote:
The win32 desktop is 100% open.


Here you're comparing apples to oranges. You can't compare an app store to an entire OS. If you were even remotely interested in being objective, you would have to compare Steam to Microsoft's Modern Windows Store. Oh hmmm, what do we have here? Microsoft has control over the content that's is published there!


RE: Closed platform
By inighthawki on 9/21/2013 5:39:42 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
That's, conveniently, a pretty generic and broad-based definition you're using. It's not that simple. That's like saying Wal-Mart isn't open to the public because they control what products are on the shelves...

It is that simple, and that example doesn't make much sense at all, because that is exactly what it would mean. Walmart would NOT be considered an open store, else anyone could just sell their own stuff on Walmart's shelves.

quote:
Oh hell no, now I know you're off base big time.

From the perspective of the sales model, yes it is identical. Apps are submitted to Valve to be approved to sell on the steam store. The store sells that product with a DRM licensing scheme provided through their store. In the same way, Apple approves requests to sell apps on the app store, and they ahve similar DRM and licensing schemes for apps purchased and downloaded from their store. If you believe otherwise, please cite a specific example of why they would NOT be considered equals other than "now I know you're off base big time." That is not actually an argument.

quote:
Here you're comparing apples to oranges. You can't compare an app store to an entire OS. If you were even remotely interested in being objective, you would have to compare Steam to Microsoft's Modern Windows Store. Oh hmmm, what do we have here? Microsoft has control over the content that's is published there!

When I mentioned Win32 desktop, I was simply referring to programming anything in the desktop environment, which can be compiled, distributed and run completely independently with no contract or licensing from microsoft. It is 100% open and Microsoft has no say in whether your app can be run or not. As for the windows 8 store, I do not disagree. It is equally comparable to both steam and the iPhone's app store. I never claimed it wasn't, and if you re-read my posts, you will see I never tried to use it as an argument. So why do you try to make it sound like I did? I didn't mention the modern components of Windows at all. I mentioned desktop apps as an example of an open platform. The app store was just a more convenient and well known example, and it also happened to be mentioned directly in Gabe's speech.


RE: Closed platform
By Reclaimer77 on 9/21/2013 1:09:02 PM , Rating: 2
Again, I don't see how it's applicable to compare Steam to Windows. Steam isn't an operating system environment, it just runs on top of whatever OS. Which is why:

quote:
I never claimed it wasn't, and if you re-read my posts, you will see I never tried to use it as an argument. So why do you try to make it sound like I did?


I brought up the Windows Store. And no, I never tried to make it "sound" like you were making that argument. I'M telling you that comparing Steam to Windows is biased, they are two dissimilar platforms. You have to compare Steam to the Windows Store! Do you have a major reading comprehension problem or something?

quote:
When I mentioned Win32 desktop, I was simply referring to programming anything in the desktop environment, which can be compiled, distributed and run completely independently with no contract or licensing from microsoft. It is 100% open and Microsoft has no say in whether your app can be run or not.


Well again, Valve has no "desktop environment" to compare to Windows. However they DO give all of their software and developer tools out for free. And you can even use these to distribute/sell games, software, and mods outside of Steam. Is that not "open" to you?

I get that your original OP was intended to make Valve appear to be hypocritical, but I don't think it's that simple. I think you were more interested in getting a dig in than having a real discussion about this.

Also Gabe's statements are about where they are going, not where they've been. Unless you have all the details about the inner workings of this "Steambox", you cannot possibly say if it's going to be open or closed.


RE: Closed platform
By inighthawki on 9/21/2013 2:51:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'M telling you that comparing Steam to Windows is biased, they are two dissimilar platforms. You have to compare Steam to the Windows Store! Do you have a major reading comprehension problem or something?

No, you can compare it to any platform you want. Windows is a desktop OS, and it is an open environment. This is what an open environment IS. You are asking me to force a comparison between only closed environments. Steam is directly comparable to things like the app store and the windows store, because they are all closed. Windows desktop is an open environment. Just because it doesn't have some distribution mechanism or behave identically doesn't change that.

quote:
Well again, Valve has no "desktop environment" to compare to Windows. However they DO give all of their software and developer tools out for free. And you can even use these to distribute/sell games, software, and mods outside of Steam. Is that not "open" to you?

Absolutely that is open. Any game which gives out tools to create software and mods and has no restriction on distribution, meaning anyone can publish their content at any time, is an open environment.

quote:
Also Gabe's statements are about where they are going, not where they've been. Unless you have all the details about the inner workings of this "Steambox", you cannot possibly say if it's going to be open or closed.

You're right, I don't know where they're going, and I don't know anything about the steambox, and I have no idea how it'll work. I was simply commenting about steam as it is today.


RE: Closed platform
By TakinYourPoints on 9/23/2013 3:58:34 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Oh hell no, now I know you're off base big time.


It is absolutely the same thing. Steam, iOS App Store, WP8/RT Store are the same idea. Sell software to users that are tied to an account. Steam is actually the most restrictive of the three and on average pays out less than the 70% that Apple/Microsoft/Google do to developers.

On top of that, it is also the hardest to get software through. They are trying to address this problem by automating approvals with Greenlight, but it still doesn't work as well as something like the App Store where they throw manpower to approve more apps.

Valve doesn't approve nearly the volume that other stores do, which in some cases locks out totally worthy games for longer than its non-DRM counterparts do.


RE: Closed platform
By rsmech on 9/21/2013 2:09:45 AM , Rating: 2
Sounds like ms has rules to. Don't share source code. But I guess you don't like their rules so it doesn't apply.


RE: Closed platform
By rsmech on 9/22/2013 3:25:50 AM , Rating: 2
Do you work for google? I think I remember a similar question being asked of Tony.

Maybe I missed something but were you the first to bring windows into the discussion? Why windows bash even when its not been part of the discussion. Since you like the Android platform so much I would expect you to defend it but always bringing up windows. Your the one who keeps bringing oranges to the apple argument. It's like Tony 2.0


RE: Closed platform
By Cheesew1z69 on 9/22/2013 7:58:31 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
It's like Tony 2.0
He certainly is no Tony 2.0...


RE: Closed platform
By TakinYourPoints on 9/23/13, Rating: 0
RE: Closed platform
By Cheesew1z69 on 9/23/2013 8:08:46 AM , Rating: 2
Cool story bro....


RE: Closed platform
By Wolfpup on 9/23/2013 2:35:21 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, it is ironic.


"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad














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