Valve's Gabe Newell is talking Linux and gaming again. Is this the return of the Steam Box?

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Xi3's Piston was an early 'Steam Box' contender

Source: Xi3

Remember the Steam Box? There was a lot of talk about it earlier this year, during CES and in the few months following. In case you don't recall, the Steam Box is a PC running Linux and dedicated to gaming. It's designed for the living room (meaning HDMI out and a controller friendly user interface). You turn on the Steam Box and instead of seeing an OS you boot right into Steam (Valve software's digital distribution service). The idea is you chuck your Xbox and put a Steam Box in your living room instead. That's the concept, anyway; Valve hasn't blessed any hardware with 'official' Steam Box status yet.

Valve has been pretty quiet about the Steam Box for the past few months, but yesterday at LinuxCon Valve's managing director Gabe Newell stoked the fires again (video below). According to a post at Ars Technica, Newell said that Linux is the future of gaming and that Steam on Linux now supports 198 games.

Ars says Newell never uttered the phrase "Steam Box" but they did quote him as saying "Next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities we see for bringing Linux into the living room." In the past Newell has implied that Valve would create it's own hardware if no one else took up the challenge. It's not clear whether next week will see a hardware announcement from Valve or just news about some 3rd party bringing out a living-room friendly Linux box.

The timing is interesting to me. Last January I thought Valve would be a lot more aggressive than they have been. If we're talking about a hardware announcement next week, it just seems like they've decided to dive in at the worst possible moment, with so much of the gaming community focused on the November launch of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, and with us being at the height of the gaming software season with titles like GTA V coming out.

Unless Valve can really pull off a coup (like announcing that GTA V is coming to Linux but not Windows...wouldn't that stir things up!?) I'm just not sure they'll get the attention they're hoping for in terms of 'mainstream' gamers opting to skip next gen consoles in favor of a Linux-powered PC next to the TV. Sure Linux gaming fans will be excited but realistically that's not a huge marketing segment.

Still, I'm eager to hear what Valve's announcement is. Between this and the Tokyo Game Show running from Thursday to Sunday of this week (not to mention the furor around the GTA V launch) it's going to be another exciting week for gaming!

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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