Why Valve's Big Picture puts Apple on alert

By Danny Palmer
12 Sep 2012 View Comments

Video game developer and publisher Valve is bringing its gaming and distribution software Steam to the living room, with its new Big Picture mode now available in beta form.

Further reading

This new mode for Steam allows users to plug their PC or laptop into their TV and access all that Steam has to offer - games, a digital store, internet browsing, communication and more - from the comfort of their sofa.

Big Picture also enables users to play PC games, traditionally operated using a keyboard and mouse, with a game controller. While this was already possible on a PC, Valve has designed Big Picture specifically with the controller in mind, even going so far as introducing a Daisywheel, a tool for typing with the thumb sticks and buttons of a control pad, which initial reports suggest runs much smoother than expected.

While the idea of playing PC games from the comfort of the lounge - rather than at a desk elsewhere in the home - might be appealing, what is really interesting is the introduction of a smooth user interface for Steam designed for big-screen televisions. This interface is introduced along with what Valve is calling "the world's first first-person web browser", with a cursor moved across the screen thanks to the flexibility of game controller analogue sticks.

Valve describes its reasons for creating Big Picture as a way to allow people to do more from the comfort of their own homes.

"Sometimes, you just want to hang out in the living room. Why should you have to give up all your games, your community of friends and all the things you love about Steam when you're there? With Big Picture mode, you don't have to," it said, citing customer demand for a living room-friendly Steam client as further motivation for introducing it.

There have long been rumours that Valve has interests in the living room space, with reports earlier this year suggesting it is preparing to challenge Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo with a home console.

The introduction of Big Picture potentially offers more than just a games system. The user interface could be mistaken for Apple TV - the iPhone maker's own entertainment hub - which Steam's television-friendly software has arguably taken some inspiration from.

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