Will Steam Machines Be the Death of Windows?
In what has become somewhat of a hidden secret among technological circles over the past few months, change is coming, and in a big way. As the console war erupts, bringing out the best (and worst) of both sides, an equally important struggle brews within Youtube videos and message boards, planting the seeds for an all-out battle that will leave everyone in the gaming world affected.
In a tactic almost as brilliant as it is stealthy, Steam is preparing to make a move that could bring every player in the gaming world to their knees, wiping away all thoughts of a console war that must take second fiddle to a matter even more trying, if that can be believed. The move I’m referring to is the production and development of the Steam Machine, a machine that has, until now gone unnoticed for what it really is – a silent assassin to every gaming market that has existed within the last two decades. Two decades of Windows superiority, with consoles vying (unsuccessfully) for first place among each other, wiped away in the blink of an eye. Oh yes, change is coming, and Microsoft had better be ready.
A Powerful History
Linux – you’ve all heard of it, most have even shunned it, but how many of you truly know the global opensource phenomena for what it really is? Well, here’s a little back-story for all those who haven’t kept up with one of the most stunning technological achievements in the last 30 years.
Our story begins some 31 years ago in Massachusetts at a little university you might have heard of called MIT. Richard Stallman was working there at the time within their computing sector, programming software that would assist him within a wide range of areas. Keep in mind, this is 1983. People couldn’t just download or purchase software, if they wanted an easier way to perform a function on a computer they had to program it, spending tedious hours in the process.
With such great importance came great opportunity, as companies like Microsoft bought up every tiny bit of software they could find so that they could in-turn market the programs built on the shoulders of men like Stallman to the general public, thus saving everyone a lot of time and making men like Bill Gates a heck of a lot of money.
This, however, bothered Stallman. He wondered why it was necessary to charge for a bit of software code. Why couldn’t the computing industry at-large share code with one-another so that, over time there was a large array of free software available for everyone who wanted it, eliminating what he perceived as greedy corruption at the business level of things? It was this idea that pushed Stallman to found the GNU project, a project built and operated on free software for anyone who wished to cooperate.
Over time the GNU project grew as thousands of programmers throughout the world donated free software code to Stallman’s pet, causing everyone involved save lots of time and even more money. All that was left was a kernel to put the GNU project’s free, opensource software on. In comes Linus Torvalds.
A frequent user of the GNU project, Linus wanted to create an operating system by which the free GNU software could be more easily accessed and controlled, this want would lead to the birth of Linux. Linux was and is an operating system capable of hosting millions of software code found in Stallman’s project to anyone in the world, all for free. Afterwards, it was the utility and timing of this collaboration that began an underground movement, a movement that still grows and exists today. It is this point which takes us further on our timeline, to 2013.
By the year 2013 Linux had acquired a sizable (though negligible) following within the Internet community. With many free incarnations of its operating system, people jumped at the chance to try an OS that was free, used free software, and was easy to learn (for anyone interested), all while being nearly immune to viruses. However, the one downside to this technological marvel was its incompatibility within the gaming community.
You see, Linux users can code and practically clone all the Windows-based software they want, but at the end of the day it’s impossible to clone a video game which spans hundreds of hours with specific sprites and story lines – sprites and story lines which are completely trademarked. Therefore, enjoy the OS as they might, people were reluctant to leave the warm, fuzzy confines of Windows and its multitude of modern games.
That is, until Valve, the unofficial king of computer gaming decided to shake things up and make Steam compatible with Ubuntu, a Linux-based operating system. In doing this, Valve instantly created a demand for developers and publishers to create Linux incarnations of their games, thus pushing Linux to the forefront of gaming.
Then came the big announcement. In 2014 the gaming corporation wished to distribute Steam Machines, their own version of a console so that Steam users would be able to play their computer games on a TV for the first time ever. However, that’s not all. Steam announced that their Machines would be running via Debian, another Linux-based operating system! This announcement was/is huge!
A Snowball Effect?
Gaming companies everywhere will now be pressed to develop Linux versions of their titles. And at a time when Microsoft is getting increasing flak for its perceived failures with Windows 8, people everywhere that are actually aware of the Linux brand will be able to switch operating systems without the fear of losing their precious games. The potential snowball effect here cannot be overstated.
Linux, a free operating system running free software that’s practically immune to viruses – now gaming compatible. Many of the technologically-savvy of us are going to take one look at this and wonder why they shouldn’t jump brands, leading to a potential firestorm, much like, me the Mac craze of the last decade; with people, much out of frustration for their increasingly expensive software needs discovering an alternative, only to jump in head-first before declaring allegiance to its cause.
And now, with Steam, the world’s largest gaming company personally endorsing Linux and its many uses, millions of people are going to be introduced to the operating system for the first time, which could make things very interesting for Microsoft.
A New Player in the 'War'
But that’s not all, with the Steam Machines being television-based, Steam will also begin directly competing with other consoles within the industry such as the PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U. Which doesn’t sound like much of a threat at first-glance, but once you consider the increasing power of computers and their compatibility towards the most graphically demanding games, on top of their ability to do pretty much everything else (Skype has existed on computers since 2003, and now, in 2014 its one of the Xbox One’s major selling points) the shift of console gamer-computer gamer and its potential effect on the console war is becoming more and more apparent. And with a shift towards computer gaming comes a shift in Steam usage and a demand for their Linux-based gaming machine.
The Wait Begins
With all that’s been said, it’s going to be an interesting year for Steam and Linux-indeed. Only time will tell if the war will be as potentially devastating as forecast here, but one thing’s for sure – the winners in this announcement are the gamers who get to enjoy these great titles/innovations coming out year after year. Let’s hope the trend continues, as there are millions of people in dire need of wasting time.