Valve SteamOS set for launch on Friday

December 12, 2013 // 9:42 a.m.

Tags: #digital-power #gabe-newell #greg-coomer #linux #linux-gaming #small-form-factor #steam-box #steam-machine #steamos #ubuntu #valve #windows

Valve's Linux-based gaming-centric operating system SteamOS will be with us by the weekend, as the company plans to get the first prototype Steam Machine boxes in front of beta testers tomorrow.

Following some acerbic comments aimed at Microsoft's Windows, starting with claims that making DirectX 10 a Vista-exclusive was a mistake and culminating in Windows 8 being dubbed a catastrophe, Valve founder Gabe Newell has set off to build his own operating system. Taking the open-source GNU/Linux as a base, SteamOS is designed to run on living-room centric small form factor gaming boxes - dubbed Steam Machines - with a copy of Steam for Linux running in Big Picture Mode.

The first prototype Steam Machines are already rolling off the production line, heading to 300 beta testers which - contrary to Valve's original plan - will be solely US-based. ''We’ve had to make the difficult decision to limit our beta to the U.S. only, because of regulatory hurdles.,' explained Valve's Greg Coomer in the announcement. 'This was not our original plan, and it means we can’t collect beta feedback from Steam customers world-wide, which is pretty unfortunate. All things considered, we’re sure it was the right decision, because the alternative was to delay the whole beta beyond the point when we’d be able to incorporate any feedback into the 2014 products.'

For international users - and those many thousands who have not been selected for the closed Steam Machine beta programme - there's some good news: SteamOS, as promised, is also heading for a release as a free download. 'SteamOS will be made available when the prototype hardware ships,' explained Coomer. 'It will be downloadable by individual users and commercial OEMs - but unless you’re an intrepid Linux hacker already, we’re going to recommend that you wait until later in 2014 to try it out.'

The company plans to begin shipping the prototype hardware to users tomorrow, and will post SteamOS as a free download at the same time. The software, however, is in the very early stages of development - meaning it's unlikely to usurp Windows, or even non-gaming-centric Linux distributions, as anyone's platform of choice just yet.

At the same time, manufacturer Digital Storm has teased a high-end Steam Machine which it will be unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January next year. Unlike previously-teased hardware from rivals, Digital Storm is aiming at the very highest end with a liquid-cooled design and the option of an Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan graphics card. While SteamOS will be included, the company has confirmed plans to release the hardware - pricing for which is expected to start around the $1,500 mark (around £918 excluding taxes) - as a dual-boot system with a bundled copy of Microsoft Windows.
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