Valve joins Linux Foundation

Emanuel Maiberg at

The Linux Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of the free, open source operating system, announced on Wednesday that Valve has joined the organization.

According the language on the Foundation's official website, membership status allows Valve to participate in member-only events of the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, the right to vote and run for Linux Foundation board seats, access to the foundation's media network, and other, frankly boring benefits.

What's interesting is what this means for Valve's future plans. At last year's Casual Connect conference in Seattle, Valve's Gabe Newell said that the big problem holding back Linux is that it doesn't support enough games.

"People don’t realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior," Newell said. "We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It’s a hedging strategy."

At the time, Newell also said that Microsoft's Windows 8 is such a huge catastrophe, he fears it will prompt some top-tier manufacturers to abandoned the PC market entirely. "If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality."

Vavle's membership in the Linux Foundation and a potential seat on its board in the future is perfectly in-line with the above statements. It will, hopefully, increase confidence in Linux is a gaming-friendly operating system, and it might even allow Valve to encourage other developers and vendors to step up the biggest technical challenge Linux faces: better driver support.

The news also emphasizes Valve's increasing commitment to the free operating system. The living-room centric Steam Controller that made headlines in September will be used with the SteamOS, the Linux-based operating system for Valve's Steam Machines.

While other Linux Foundation members include the likes of Sony, Nvidia, and even World of Tanks developer Wargaming.net, Valve is by far the biggest gaming-oriented company to join.

In 2011 Valve hired Mike Sartain to work in its "Linux team." As its amusing employee handbook points out, Valve's company structure isn't as hierarchical as that of some other developers, so it's hard to nail down a title and role for every employee. But we do know that Sartain's interests and Valve's interests in him relate to Linux. Before coming to Valve Sartain worked on the original Halo project at Microsoft and RAD Game Tools.

"Joining the Linux Foundation is one of many ways Valve is investing the advancement of Linux gaming," Sartain said of the announcement. "Through these efforts, we hope to contribute tools for developers building experiences on Linux, compel hardware manufacturers to prioritize support for Linux, and ultimately deliver an elegant and open platform for Linux users."