Valve's countdown has reached its conclusion and their announcement is *drumroll* a new, free operating system tailored for living room machines.
SteamOS combines Linux and Steam into one super OS that exists in your living room. The basic concept of the operating system seems to be that it can operate on "any living room machine" and works to stream games, movies, television, music, etc. from your current Steam library to your television. This means that Valve will soon be adding the ability to purchase music, movies, and television shows to the Steam marketplace in addition to video games. The entire Steam library will be compatible with SteamOS, including all user-created content. Even user's friends lists will make the jump to the new operating system.
As a result of a dedicated OS, Valve reports that they have, "achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and we’re now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level." This seems to imply that less powerful devices could run more powerful games while running SteamOS.
Besides allowing users to stream their entertainment library to their television, the new OS will allow users to create family accounts for their Steam. On paper, this will allow families to easily share their games among their household with separate achievement tracking and permissions for each family member. Don't want little Timmy to be playing Metro: Last Light? BOOM, that content is restricted from his family account. Tired of your significant other nabbing those achievements before you do? BAM, you both have separate accounts for the same library.
The Steam Cloud allows for users to carry over their saved progress from their main machine to their living room, provides storage, and automatic updates on everything.
According to Valve, the operating system will be free forever and will be available, licensing free, to hardware manufacturers.
There are still many unanswered questions regarding SteamOS. Just what Valve means by "any living room machine" isn't clear quite yet. Does that mean I can download SteamOS onto a PS4 or Xbox One? Or will it require a dedicated living room PC? How much storage does the Steam Cloud provide? Exactly when will the SteamOS launch? When will Steam be opening their market for movies and music?
Also, what is with the second countdown that began after the SteamOS announcement? I guess we will find out when the timer reaches zero on Wednesday. Until then, let dreams of a free Steam operating system that runs on your television dance in your head.
You can read the full announcement here.