Exploring Valve's masterplan: on SteamOS, Steam Machines and the future of the PC

Steam's Competition: Gabe vs Windows 8

We'll end with one of Newell's most memorable quotes from the last few years. No, I'm not talking about the time that he said he would "like to be super transparent about the future of Ricochet 2."

"Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space."

"I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space," Newell told attendees of the Casual Connect conference in July of 2012. He was talking about why Valve were eager to get Steam's then 2,500 games running on Linux.

"I think we'll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs [original equipment manufacturers], who will exit the market," he continued. "I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that's true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality." You can see more transcribed excerpts from Newell's talk courtesy of All Things D .

While Microsoft's maligned OS hasn't quite brought about the End Times, we can already see interest in SteamOS among one of the big two GPU manufacturers. In the last week, not only have Nvidia reached out to open source driver creators , but they've also revealed their part in the creation of SteamOS. Meanwhile, AMD's technological advancements have seemingly been driven more by their position inside both new consoles, than by any loyalty to Windows.

Newell was just as uncharitable towards Windows 8 in January of this year, when, in an interview with The Verge , he called it a " giant sadness ".

"we've had a 20+ percent decline in PC sales — it's like 'holy cow that's not what the new generation of the operating system is supposed to do.'"

"The thing about Windows 8 wasn't just [Microsoft's] distribution. As somebody who participates in the overall PC ecosystem, it's totally great when faster wireless networks and standards come out, or when graphics get faster. Windows 8 was like this giant sadness. It just hurts everybody in the PC business.

"Rather than everybody being all excited to go buy a new PC, buying new software to run on it, we've had a 20+ percent decline in PC sales — it's like 'holy cow that's not what the new generation of the operating system is supposed to do.' There's supposed to be a 40 percent uptake, not a 20 percent decline, so that's what really scares me."

In this context, the focus of SteamOS - and its accompanying Steam Machines - makes sense. Realistically, SteamOS won't act as a replacement for Windows. Your desktop PC can already run Steam, and, if you're on Windows 7 or 8, the entirety of its catalogue. There's little reason for the majority of existing users to switch. By focusing on the living room, Valve are hoping to expand hardware growth by offering some of the advantages of PC gaming in a new setting. In doing so, there's every chance they'll further increase the already strong sales of PC games through their platform.

For now, expect SteamOS to create added value to the PC by bringing its flexibility into living rooms, and making it appealing to users used to closed systems. That's the goal, it seems, in the short term at least. That said, this is just the beginning of an operating system that will likely be tweaked and changed as often as Steam itself. SteamOS may not be a Windows killer on release. In the years to come? I wouldn't bet against it.

What would you like to see from SteamOS, Valve's new controller and Steam machines?

Phil Savage

Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.