Steam to move beyond games on Windows. Will it bring productivity apps to Linux?

You know what I don't miss? I don't miss installing software from disks. Back in the olden tymes, when I had to walk to school barefoot and all that, software like WordPerfect would come on a stack of floppy disks and you'd have to sit there feeding them into the drive one by one for an hour. Infuriating!

Even though things have improved a lot since then, I still don't much like installing software. I'll go out of my way to avoid buying physical copies of programs just to avoid the disk shuffling, but even then I have an installer to deal with (most of the time).

Of course in the gaming world services like Steam make maintaining a software library a cinch. You buy a game and Steam offers to install it. Once installed, it'll apply patches automatically, too. When you get a new computer you just have to install the Steam client and after that everything is automated. It's a joy to use.

So I was delighted to hear that Steam is expanding beyond games starting on September 5th. Joystiq has the full story, such that it is. In truth there aren't a lot of details yet. Valve, the company behind Steam, isn't sharing a list of specific titles that will be available, or even giving any indication of how many titles the new branch of the service will launch with.

A couple of questions immediately spring to mind. First, will we see productivity and utility software on sale for next to nothing in Steam's infamous bi-annual holiday sales? I hope so!

And second, given Valve's recent excitement over Linux (see Valve: Linux runs our games faster than Windows 7 over at ZDNet) and disdain for Windows 8 (see Windows 8 Is A 'Catastrophe' According To Gabe Newell - Valve Hedging With Steam On Linux over at Forbes) does this mean the company will help developers get their non-gaming software up and running on Linux via Steam? And if so, what (if anything) would this mean for the future of desktop Linux?

Could Steam productivity software combined with Steam On Linux pose any kind of a threat to Microsoft and/or Apple? Obviously I don't think either company has anything to worry about right away, but a solid Steam client on Linux could go a long way towards making the OS easier to deal with for the average PC user.

That, of course, assumes the average PC user really spends time thinking about his or her OS and I'm not sure that's the case. What do you think? Could Steam productivity apps on Linux give the OS a popularity boost? Or am I just dreaming?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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