Boost for Linux as Valve releases Steam games

By John Leonard
15 Feb 2013 View Comments
Steam for Ubuntu

The popular games platform Steam is now available for Linux laptops, according to a blog by Canonical, distributor of the Ubuntu operating system.

While Linux has long been one of the main operating system of choice on the server, enjoying over 30 per cent of that market and rising, its lack of support by popular games platforms is often cited as the reason why its share of the desktop market has remained stubbornly low at just 1 or 2 per cent according to most surveys.

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The release by games maker Valve of Steam for Linux is likely to provide a huge boost to the open source OS on the desktop and other form factors.

As Computing reported last year, Valve has voiced disenchantment with the increasingly proprietary app-store approach demonstrated by Microsoft and embodied in Windows 8.

Valve sees Microsoft's encroaching control as a direct threat to its business model. Also, as Windows' dominance of the desktop starts to fade Valve views making its 2,500 Steam games available on other operating systems as a sensible strategy.

"I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we'll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that's true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality," said CEO Gabe Newell in July.

At present only one flavour of Linux is supported by Valve - Ubuntu - but the company plans to support other Linux distributions in the future.

"[Firstly] working with a single distribution is critical when you are experimenting, as we are. It reduces the variability of the testing space and makes early iteration easier and faster. Secondly, Ubuntu is a popular distribution and has recognition with the general gaming and developer communities. This doesn't mean that Ubuntu will be the only distribution we support. Based on the success of our efforts around Ubuntu, we will look at supporting other distributions in the future," Valve said in a blog post

Like Windows 8, Ubuntu is being developed as a cross-platform OS, meaning that applications will work in more or less the same way on the desktop, tablet and smartphone. The first Ubuntu smartphone is due for release in October.

In its blog Canonical said: "We welcome all the new Steam users who can now upgrade to Ubuntu. Steam Big Picture running on your Ubuntu computer connected to the living room TV is a great way to experience the future today. Canonical looks forward to the steady progress of games from all our partners on Ubuntu on the desktop and soon on the Ubuntu phone and tablet in due course."

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