Thoughts: SteamOS: Round 2

Well, more information has surfaced regarding Valve’s latest venture. If you missed my thoughts the first time around, you can read it here to figure out what the fuss is all about.

Anyway, starting next year you’ll be able to buy a box with SteamOS pre-installed. They don’t really give you much info beyond that, but you can buy something already set up for you if you don’t want to build your own box, which is the route I will go since the OS is free and most nerds like me have extra hardware lying around.

You don’t have to get in on the whole SteamOS thing. They’re not gonna change anything about the PC side of things, so you can just keep carrying on as always.

It’s also worth noting that the OS is designed to be operated with a gamepad, we are talking about an OS built around Steam’s Big Picture mode, but you can still use a mouse and a keyboard if you want. Not every game supports the gamepad, so to play them in Big Picture mode, you still gotta have the ol’ mouse and keyboard-hopefully wireless ones, at that. Much nicer to deal with in living room settings.

It remains unclear if Steam plans to go the cloud-based gaming route with this, which is sort of important to know for people who don’t have great gaming rigs and want to get in on the PC action. That’s what cloud-based gaming is really good for and while I love owning physical copies of stuff and having physical things to show off, being able to play stuff on whatever I want with no regard to my physical hardware is a no-brainer. But to settle some confusion, those 3k titles Valve mentions as being available are the games fully compatible with Big Picture mode-meaning: they have gamepad support. You can still play every game in your library, regardless, you just need the keyboard and mouse. I tell ya, passing around a keyboard and mouse is rather amusing, but it’s not a big deal.

It’s a nice convenience, but I don’t believe people know there are existing ways to stream your stuff from your PC to your TV. You can buy a device for as little as $60 that hooks up to your TV and allows it to function as a wireless display if your PC has WiDi support. If it doesn’t, you still have options, but you’re looking at spending $150. Some of these options can treat your TV as an extended desktop, so you can still do stuff on your PC, while others just mirror . With either option, you’ve got your desktop on the big screen and can just fire up Steam in Big Picture mode and be good to go.  As always, you want to pay attention to what you’re getting and do your research so you get a device that fits your streaming gaming needs. Stutters would not be a good thing.

Anyway, there’s still these two things I’d like to know in order to determine if it’s really something I’d bother with:

  • Connectivity
    Is this basically a wireless display adapter? If so, are we talking extended desktop, or mirrored display? Otherwise, how the eff is this thing paired? Is it like those streaming micro-consoles like NeoTV and junk? Is this dealie tied to one account or can it see everything Steam on your network since a guest could log-in on their profile and play your stuff?
  • Networking
    I have two houses. Could I leave my PC on at home and take my SteamOS box to my other house and play?

Valve is being quite vague with their trickling of information. In 23 hours they’ll be releasing another trickle of info. At-any-rate, once the OS becomes available, I’ll be throwing it on a box and giving it a go.

If you’re on Steam, you can become a beta candidate by looking on your badges/quest page. You should see a Steam Hardware Beta Candidate badge. Complete those items and you have a chance at being one of the 300 beta participants that will be sent a prototype box with SteamOS pre-installed. You have until October 25th to do so.


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