The first batch of Steam OS powered machines were announced at CES 2014. These machines will serve two purposes – they will redefine the gaming industry by bringing new players, better hardware to break the trinity of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo which locks everyone else out of the game console market.
In this context Steam OS will do the same to the game console market that Android did to the mobile industry.
The second purpose is to take over the living room as these machines double up as a desktop computer which allows you to do almost everything that an average user would like to do on a PC.
Looking at these machines and Valve’s strategy, it seems like GNU/Linux will eventually dominate that space which has always been its weakness – desktop PCs.
The reason why Steam OS would be a success where Ubuntu hasn’t been so far is simple. Ubuntu pitches against Windows or Mac and falls short of the competition because it, unfortunately, lacks professional applications and services which an average PC user may need.
There is no Netflix or Google Drive for Ubuntu, there is no Photoshop or Adobe Premiere. So there is no incentive for users like my wife who want a mix or work and entertainment on their systems (she has become a full time Chromebook user as she can access Netflix and use GDrive) or my film-maker buddy who needs to do a lot of professional grade work on his system. Ubuntu fails to solve the problem of everyone who is sitting between these two kind of users.
Steam OS doesn’t have that problem because it’s not projecting itself as a PC. It’s a game OS and Valve already has that one killer app that any company needs to break into a new market – games. Valve is a very powerful game distributor with over 75 million registered users. So it already has a very huge ‘money-spending’ user base. Here we are talking about concrete numbers and not some estimation. The company has roped in leading hardware players who are building game consoles using Steam OS; the dedicated Steam OS hardware is already in the market.
So what gives Steam OS an edge over others and how is it positioned better than Ubuntu?
Simple. Steam exceeds expectations. When one buys an Ubuntu PC he/she can’t do a lot that a Mac or Windows user can do, but when someone buys a Steam OS game console, he/she can do much more than what a PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo user can do. Steam Machine user won’t have to open their laptops to get the work done – which they have to do when they are on other game consoles.