Valve renews Linux commitment, Microsoft and Sony should worry

Valve renews Linux commitment, Microsoft and Sony should worry

Summary: Valve has joined the Linux Foundation, making Steam Machine prototypes looking more and more like serious competition for Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4.


If Valve has its way, tomorrow's gaming console is going to be running Linux. The Steam-gaming company has just renewed its Linux commitment by joining The Linux Foundation.

Valve Steam Machine Controller
This is a prototype Steam Machine controller. The real thing will be out early in 2014.

This follows Valve's recently announced plans to move its Steam-gaming platform, with 65 million active accounts and games from hundreds of developers, into the living room with its Steam Machines project. An innovative living room device, Steam Machines will be powered by its own Linux-based distribution: SteamOS.

Valve isn't new to Linux. While the company has only been releasing its games on Ubuntu Linux since February 2013, its history with Linux actually goes all the way back to 1999.

Valve CEO Gabe Newell said in September that "We use [Linux on] several hundred thousand game servers and use it internally as well for game servers. Internally, we have 20 terabytes of content, we go a year between reboots, and we delivered over an exabyte of data on the Internet in the year to date, which comes to 2 to 3 percent of the world's Internet." He added, "In all game companies, you'll find more reliance on and higher percentages of Linux usage."

Newell continued, "Linux is the future of gaming for gamers on the client as well, because, besides Microsoft moving to a more locked-in style of computing, "Open systems were advancing much faster. The old console guys are not competitive, and there's huge tension in proprietary systems." For example, Newell said, "It took us six months to get one update through the Apple store. Closed systems are at odds with the evolution of gaming."

So, joining The Linux Foundation makes perfect sense for Valve. Mike Sartain, a leading Valve Linux developer and a former Xbox programmer, said in a statement, "Joining the Linux Foundation is one of many ways Valve is investing in the advancement of Linux gaming. Through these efforts, we hope to contribute tools for developers building new experiences on Linux, compel hardware manufacturers to prioritize support for Linux, and ultimately deliver an elegant and open platform for Linux users."

At the same time that Valve is working with the community to further Linux gaming, the company is also working on getting it Steam Box engineering prototypes ready for beta testers. Valve isn't the only one building SteamOS-powered gaming consoles. IBuyPower, a popular gaming computer manufacturer, is also creating its own Steam Machine.

According to a report from the Verge, the IBuyPower Steam Box will be powered by a multi-core AMD CPU and use an AMD Radeon R9 270 graphics card for video. At an educated guess, and with a price point of $499, the IBuyPower gaming console will use such high-speed, low-cost processors such as AMD FX-9370 Eight-Core and AMD FX-8350 Eight-Core.

Valve's own system will use quad-core Core i7-4770 CPUs to run games. For graphics, it will use Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 at the lower-end. Other models will feature GTX 760 or GTX 780 cards, while the top systems will come with GeForce GTX Titan monster cards.

Unlike the Playstation and XBox, even though the latter shares the Windows NT core along with Windows 8.x, you will be able to run SteamOS on your own PC. While Valve will be happy to sell people dedicated Steam Machines, the real plan is to not lock users into consoles but to merge the best features of PC and console gaming into one, open user-friendly gaming environment.

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Topics: Hardware, Linux, Open Source, PCs

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  • Linux is not relavent in this debate

    The fact that Valve will be a real competitor has nothing to do with the underneath OS running the thing. Steam is simply a very good, light, nimble gaming system that makes a lot of sense. That is what MS and Sony needs to worry about.
    Gamers have nothing to do with the OS; all of which matter is the quality of the Games, the availability of the Games and the price of the Games.

    Sorry SJVN…. Your article is once again shooting in the wrong direction.
    • The world's greatest gaming OS

      The fact that the world's greatest gaming OS is built upon Linux is relevant.

      That's how they were able to optimize it for gaming, in a way that old-style proprietary OSes could not. No more walled gardens!
      • Ah, XBox isn't built on Linux

        so your sentence is totally wrong.
        • Quiet, the Muppet ballet

          of Windows shills has begun.
          • Funny...

            ... The Penguin parade had already started.

            You're a funny one, but then again, what do I know.

            Everyone who doesn't share your opinion is a Microsoft shill, apparently.
          • SJVN is delusional as usual

            Valve's machine is just vapor

            It's DOA and sucks almost as much as Desktop Linsucks
        • No, it's only partially wrong

          It's definitely easier to develop an OS for a specialized device if you can start with a general purpose one and modify it to taste. And since the Linux kernel is licensed under the GPL, it's freely available for that purpose.
          John L. Ries
          • Microsoft really should worry

            What happens the die-hard gamers flock to Steam OS?

            Those gamers might start putting together powerful PCs that run Steam OS as their main OS.
          • Not many customers left for Microsoft to worry about...

            ..most of the "Die Hard" gamers that did the majority of their gaming in Windows left the desktop PC long ago. Many of them went to the XBox, and quite a lot of those customers aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
    • What?

      "Steam is simply a very good, light, nimble gaming system"

      This is BS. On my windows system this is the heaviest, most bloated and most irritating piece of software there is. It does not add anything useful to gaming experience and without SSD it makes system unusable for a few minutes after system boot. Just think about bad old days of Norton Antivirus 2002-2003. These days Steam is the new Norton.

      Maybe sloppy developers is the real reason why Valve is trying Linux platform? Devs just complain about "bloated windows" instead of fixing their POS Steam on Windows.
      • Of course

        Have you stopped to consider why that might be?

        “We need to slaughter Novell before they get stronger.If you’re going to kill someone, there isn’t much reason to get all worked up about it and angry. You just pull the trigger. Any discussions beforehand are a waste of time. We need to smile at Novell while we pull the trigger.” –Jim Allchin, Microsoft’s Platform Group Vice President
        • Yes

          "Have you stopped to consider why that might be?"

          Yes I did. Somebody does not know how to develop software that does not suck.In this case it is Valve. I checked task manager few times and Steam was doing disk I/O like there was no tomorrow. I did not even want to start the game! Steam just had to download and install update without asking.

          Now your quote is totally irrelevant. It is marketing talk. Go to any bigger company sales meeting and you would hear even scarier things like "kill them", "choke them", "cut their oxygen", etc. It does not mean squat.
          • It is not Steam controlling your disk I/O

            Steam cannot do any disk I/O. It is up to the operating system to control disk I/O. That is one of Windows faults, busy disk I/O. Bad disk scheduling. Use a Linux based distribution and you can see a huge difference.
      • agreed, Steam client is annoying

        Grinds away for 10 minutes after a reboot, and then - every time - does a 70 MB download. I'd like to see SteamOS be a viable alternative, but I'm not expecting great things.
    • Quite right, the article goes totally wrong

      The OS really doesn't mean anything. It can be the greatest OS in the history of mankind, and if the games suck, well, you know. It'll fail instantly.

      This is where the Linux fanatics always fail to understand the realities of life. They'll play a game because its on Linux where normal people will play games, to play games. The OS just doesn't mean anything to them.

      Steam may have a good platform, but unless they have games that compete with Halo and Call of Duty, true success will be difficult at best.
      • It actually does.

        You said that it does not have any games that matches the caliber of halo or cod but what you fail to know is that steam is run by valve which is the maker of games like counter strike & half life which by my standards are better than any cod game except cod MW &really gives halo a run for it's money
        Jay Singh 66
    • Gnu/Linux is the only

      ... thing that is relevant in this article. What debate?

      Closed systems are last century. Open systems are the 21st century.

      The best games, and the best gaming experience, will occur on open systems; and for the reasons pointed out by SJVN--> from Valve CEO Gabe. Development cycles can be orders of magnitude (X1000) faster with open systems. The gnu/linux Steam machines are going to make the XBox and Playstation look like toad-stools... its just time now.

      If as you say, "all that matters is the quality of the games, the availability of the games, and the price of the games," then ALL that should matter to you is that the Steam Machine vision is successful. Open systems carry ALL three of your "important" points. In other words, the OS is ALL that IS relevant here...

      Thanks for a great article, SJVN.

      • Linux-based Steam so far isn't showing much promise right now...

        "If as you say, "all that matters is the quality of the games, the availability of the games, and the price of the games," then ALL that should matter to you is that the Steam Machine vision is successful. Open systems carry ALL three of your "important" points. In other words, the OS is ALL that IS relevant here..."

        If that were true, then we would see at least SOME measurable advantage to using the Linux-based Steam client right now, at least in terms of "quality, availability, or price" of games.

        I'll concede that I did read somewhere that Valve did get one game running at 16% faster on Linux than Windows (that is, after spending months optimizing said game - it apparently originally choked under Linux). I think it's pretty fair to file that under YMMV for the time-being though - if there are more benchmarks available I'd like to see 'em.

        As far as quality, availability, and price goes otherwise, there still doesn't seem to be much advantage to being a Linux gamer. After a year, there are few big-name titles available for Linux (even Apple appears to have more), and those that are available don't appear to be any less expensive than their Windows counterparts.

        If, as you say, the OS were that relevant and game development would skyrocket on Linux (which has been around about as long as Windows NT has, so it's hardly a "new" thing), you'd think there would be some evidence of that on the website of the one gaming company that is actively pushing the platform.

        The reality is that the operating system isn't much different than the electricity used to run the computer. Both are vital, but also ultimately so secondary to both the game developer and the game player that it only really affects the quality of the gaming experience when it fails - and especially nowadays, neither fail very often.
    • Surprised?

      SVJN only has a decent unbiased article about once a month. The rest are opinionate soapbox rants (like this). As you pointed out, he is blinded by his anti-Microsoft/Pro-open source feelings and missed the whole fact that people are interested in particular games and their quality, not the platform.

      I used to buy exclusively Nintendo-brand consoles for Nintendo developed games up until Wii. Why? The games I wanted played well on those systems and non-Nintendo developed games were also available. Gamecube had a terrible controller for sports games (a growing percentage of my console gaming) and I ultimately sold all my Gamecube stuff for a bigger TV and opt to game on a PC with essentially a USB playstation-style controller. Sure, I am one person, but I know many others that changed platforms for similar reasons. If all important software (games and non-games) and peripherals were equally available across Linux, Apple, and Microsoft- maybe there would be an argument. Until then, Linux will stay a completely niche OS.
    • not exactly true

      Linux IS relevant due to the fact that because Valve are using a Linux base for their SteamOS, it actually affects a whole heap of other Linux based OS users in terms of game development (more games developed for various Linux OS'). SteamOS being developed on a Linux distro means games will become more likely become developed for Linux distros in the future, removing the crappy dependency on the bloated Windows OS for gamers.
      Andrew Hargrave