STEAM-ing Ahead... How Valve may start a Revolution

Hello World, Meet Gabe Newell. Likely one of the most influential people in the computing industry you have never heard of. Unless of course you wear the title nerd, geek or know what Linux is. In that case, you are probably a fan. Whether you know who he is or not, in another 5 years, he may very well be a household name. Gabe is the co-founder and lead developer at Valve, the makers of Half-Life, Portal, and the digital distribution platform Steam. And Steam, which started as a software platform to allow Valve to more easily distribute updates and patches for their software to end users, and more importantly to maintain tighter anti-piracy measures, has developed into a full fledged development program with more than lofty ambitions. 

Humble beginnings or not, Valve has been hinting, suggesting and sometimes flat out stating that they have been working on something that would the world of PC gaming. Their claims started to seem like pipe dreams after a while for some. But after the last week, they may be a gross understatement. This week, Valve announced SteamOS on Monday, a new living room operating system for games meant for TV's. Wednesday followed with the announcement of Steam Machines, the new hardware platform. "Beginning in 2014, there will be multiple SteamOS machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers," Valve said. While confirming that they themselves will be releasing at least one Steam Box of their own design specifically designed around and optimized for SteamOS, other boxes will be coming from other manufacturers as well. Gabe Newell also stated that all Steam Boxes, regardless of manufacturer, expect a certain constants:  "The Steam Box will also be a server... so you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers." And if all this wasn't enough, Valve made it's revelations a trifecta, by announcing today a revolutionary new controller designed specifically for Steam Boxes or Steam Machines. The Steam controller aims to once and for all end the age old premise that PC games have far better control than consoles because of the unique control dynamics of a Keyboard & Mouse. "Driven by the player’s thumbs, each one has a high-resolution trackpad as its base. It is also clickable, allowing the entire surface to act as a button. The trackpads allow far higher fidelity input than has previously been possible with traditional handheld controllers. Steam gamers, who are used to the input associated with PCs, will appreciate that the Steam Controller’s resolution approaches that of a desktop mouse."

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But even with all the excitement around these announcements, the most revolutionary, exciting concept that Newell and team are promoting OPENNESS. Hackable is the term Newell likes to use.  Steam MAchines will allow you to install other operating systems to them, SteamOS will be customizable, and even the controller itself is not immune to this concept. "The Steam Controller was designed from the ground up to be hackable," says Valve. The company says it will make tools available to "enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering." The sheer extent to which Valve is keeping things open is something other hardware manufacturers should emulate or learn from. A very exciting time. I for one am curious to see how well Valve pulls off their intent to revolutionize how we only game, but how we interact in our living