Why the doubters are wrong about SteamOS

Today in Open Source: The SteamOS doubters don't understand what Valve is doing. Plus: Steam for Linux now has more than 500 games, and the new distro known as Evolve OS

Doubting the value of SteamOS

TechRadar had an opinion column about SteamOS back in January that I somehow missed. The article has a very negative take on SteamOS.

Linux is inherently hostile to non-technical users and no matter what Valve wants you to believe, introduce some USB peripherals into the mix and you can guarantee at some point you will incur a corrupt file or a bug in a game and you'll inevitably be punted into the miserable world of Linux terminal commands.

I haven't had a play with the Steam Controller yet. From what my colleagues tell me though, it's a decent gamepad that feels good in the hand and has a lot of potential. But the potential to render the keyboard and mouse obsolete? Trust me, a pig will fly solo around the world before that happens.

So if you're going to buy a gaming PC, why wouldn't you just buy a Windows system, swallow the slight premium that a Windows license will cost you, and then get access to the whole Steam library in Big Picture mode and reap the simplicity and comprehensive functionality that Windows brings with it?

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SteamOS
Image credit: TechRadar

The author of the article seems to be trapped in the past, with a steady fixation on the keyboard and mouse. He doesn't seem to understand the value of a gaming controller for SteamOS. Don't get me wrong, I like the keyboard and mouse too but there are games where a controller can provide a superior gaming experience.

In a way the author's attitude reminds me of Bill Gates who could never get past the idea of tablets that didn't use a stylus. Remember that? Gates was proven wrong as we can see with today's iOS and Android tablets, and I think the author's doubts about the SteamOS controller will also be proven wrong in a big way.

His comments about Linux in general are way, way off the mark and they indicate a decided lack of faith in Valve's ability to provide drivers and peripheral support. Valve is not a stupid company, they know full well that SteamOS has to work without a lot of fiddling on the part of gamers. And I believe they are up to that challenge and then some.

As far as Windows goes, the author seems to believe that it provides "simplicity" compared to Linux. Really? Check out some of the Windows support forums on the Internet and then get back to me. Think I'm kidding? Here are a few places where you can see Windows users savoring its "simplicity" in all its glory:

Windows 7 Help Forum

Microsoft Community Support for Windows 7

Windows OS Client Support Forum

The author also mentions that "...you've got the laughable fact that 75% of the PC games on Steam don't even work in Linux" as part of his negative take on SteamOS. This is misleading though since Steam for Linux launched a long time after Steam for Windows. Why would anyone expect the number of games on each platform to be the same already? And the number of Steam for Linux games is increasing by leaps and bounds (see the second item below for more information on that).

Clearly there are still some serious doubters out there who think that SteamOS is either unnecessary or that it's simply going to fail miserably. I could not disagree more, and I'd urge these folks to chill out for a while and let Valve actually finish developing SteamOS. The time to judge SteamOS will come when it is in final release, not while it's still in beta.

Valve warned people that the SteamOS beta was not for general consumer use but was geared toward those who were comfortable with hacking Linux. Apparently some people missed that warning and have decided to jump the gun in writing off SteamOS altogether.

It's going to be most unpleasant for them to eat their words later on.

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