Valve, Linux and the Windows 8 ‘Catastrophe’

Love knows no bounds, as the old saying goes, and there may be no better example than the Linux community’s feelings for Valve.

That, of course, dates back to the magical day in April when the gaming company announced it was bringing its Steam gaming platform to Linux at last, causing no end of jubilation in the Linux blogosphere.

Today, however, the flame of Linux geeks’ love for Valve burns brighter than ever before. The reason? None other than a series of comments made by Valve cofounder Gabe Newell at the recent Casual Connect videogame conference in Seattle.

Newell’s words may have focused on operating systems and technology platforms, but they fell like so many tender sweet nothings upon the Linux community’s collective ears.

‘The Openness of the Platform’

“In order for innovation to happen, a bunch of things that aren’t happening on closed platforms need to occur,” Newell reportedly said. “Valve wouldn’t exist today without the PC, or Epic, or Zynga, or Google. They all wouldn’t have existed without the openness of the platform.

“We are looking at the platform and saying, ‘We’ve been a free rider, and we’ve been able to benefit from everything that went into PCs and the Internet, and we have to continue to figure out how there will be open platforms,'” Newell added.

Swooning yet? Just wait for what comes next.

‘Windows 8 Is a Catastrophe’

“We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well,” Newell said. “It’s a hedging strategy.

“I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space,” he added. “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.”

In no time at all, Linux bloggers everywhere began tripping over themselves in their haste to proclaim their love.

‘A Train Wreck’

“I’ve tried Windows 8, and I couldn’t agree with Gabe Newell any more than I do,” enthused Google+ blogger Linux Rants, for example.

“Windows 8 is a disaster, plain and simple,” he added. “I’d recommend staying as far away from it as possible. If this travesty of an operating system is what it takes to push more users to Linux, we have Microsoft to thank for coming through on delivering that travesty.”

That said, however, “Windows 8 doesn’t exactly have Gabe Newell’s best interests at heart,” Linux Rants pointed out. “Valve’s Steam is basically a software store, and as such, will compete directly with the Windows Store integrated into Windows 8. If done well, the Windows Store could spell the end for Steam.”

Of course, “that’s a huge ‘if,’ as everything else about Windows 8 is a train wreck,” he concluded. “I think Steam is safe, and will give many Linux users out there a great opportunity to play their games without WINE.”

‘That Is Very Insightful’

Indeed, Newell “is not the first to say that about Windows 8, and hedging makes sense,” opined Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien.

Even more significant, however, “is that he says that innovation *requires* openness,” O’Brien added.

“That is very insightful, and an attack on the basic idea of Windows,” O’Brien pointed out. “I think that as time goes by, more and more companies are going to see that innovation really *does* require openness.”

‘They Become Less Appealing’

Similarly, “catastrophe might be a little strong, but it is only logical to hedge your bets,” agreed Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza. “As Microsoft predictably tries to tighten their grip further, they become less appealing to developers and publishers.”

Linux continues to be a viable alternative, “but at the same time, the numbers of users continue to be less than impressive,” he noted.

“Still, with many people only buying games through Steam these days, if they can get a significant number of developers (and development houses) to port their games to Linux, it is likely that they will have numerous customers,” Espinoza predicted.

“I suspect the majority of these customers will not be new customers, but current Windows Steam customers who shift platforms,” he added.

‘Steam Is Huge’

And again: “Gaming is one of the niches where GNU/Linux has been excluded by developers,” observed blogger Robert Pogson.

“Steam is huge,” Pogson added. “If they port to GNU/Linux, many games will be available to GNU/Linux users.”

Then, “when ‘8’ flops, users of Steam needing a new PC may well choose GNU/Linux,” he said.

‘The Boost Linux Needs’

“Basically, Valve is looking at a future where getting their apps to consumers means going through Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft or Sony,” suggested Roberto Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor.

“It seems like they are a bit worried about that kind of future,” Lim added. “The only platform which guarantees to remain open to apps direct from the publishers is Linux. Valve is supporting Linux to make sure it does not find itself locked in behind apps stores owned by other companies.”

That, in turn, “could be the boost Linux needs to make a big splash in the desktop space,” he concluded.

‘I’ll Probably Buy a Few Games’

Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack said he doesn’t actually care about Valve’s motivations.

“I’ll just take it and probably buy a few games if they port some good ones,” Mack said. “I’m tired of feeling like Linux is an afterthought when it comes to games.”

In any case, Newell’s comments couldn’t have come as music to Microsoft’s ears, noted Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

‘The Beginning of the Tipping Point’

“This is on top of Microsoft’s shrinking Windows revenue and Dell announcing plans to offer Ubuntu on laptops,” Travers pointed out. “It seems to be one thing after another for Microsoft these days.

“This may well be the beginning of the tipping point for the tech giant,” he opined.

Meanwhile, the pace of change in desktop operating systems in general and user interfaces in particular “has become breathtaking,” Travers observed. “Quite frankly, average users are left out in the cold. I am sure it will settle down again, but it will take some time.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.


  • The problem with Steam and Linux is twofold, 1.-You have a number of Linux core devs that are "purists" and thus will make it VERY hard for anything that isn’t FOSS (and lets be honest folks Steam IS DRM, even if its a pretty nicely done form of it) and frankly it doesn’t take much to make the shifting sands that is Linux internals not play nice with Steam.

    The second problem is an even bigger mess, and that can be laid squarely at the feet of Torvalds…the horrible state of the graphics subsystem in Linux. you can buy a graphics card for Windows, use the driver that is on the CD and you are done, that’s it. it’ll work for the life of that Windows which is currently stated at 2014 for XP, 2017 for Vista, 2020 for 7, and 2022 for Win 8. that is a LOT of years without hassles. Sure you CAN update it but you don’t HAVE to update it.

    Meanwhile thanks to Torvalds refusing to allow a stable ABI (which FYI BSD, OSX, Windows, Solaris, and even OS/2 have a stable ABI now) in Linux will that Linux driver that came out when XP did work now? How about Vista? 7? the answer is nope nope and nope. And we all know when the graphics driver gets boned in an update it can be seriously BAD news, as in single user mode black screen o death bad.

    If you want to compete with Windows when it comes to gaming you’ll simply have to demand better of the devs. Make yourselves heard! Demand some stability! Because frankly despite Gabe’s "doom and gloom" more likely just as we saw the web filled with "How to kill UAC" posts with Vista we’ll see "How to kill metro" posts all over the web, people will get rid of the "LOL Hai! I’m a cell phone LOL!" Metro UI and install Steam and go right back to the way things were. If you don’t believe me look at how many Win 8 topics end up with someone commenting or linking to Classic Shell, which is a freeware that does just what it says, kills metro for a classic Windows shell.

    I truly hope I’m wrong. I truly hope proprietary apps like Steam are welcomed with open arms, i really do. I hope to see a day where I can hand over a Linux desktop and see it running fully updated 3 years from now without the user EVER having to need a Bash prompt. But frankly between the purists, the "CLI is teh leet!" crowd and those that think anything Linus does is correct

    • Sorry but that’s FUD. You can still load programs on Win 8 no different than any other Windows, you’ll just have icons shotgunned all over your screen whether its from the appstore or from a CD.

      What has Gabe’s panties in a wad is that the Windows appstore will carry your "Angry Birds" type of casual games so he won’t see no money from that…well who’s fault is that? How many NORMAL people even know what Steam is? Or that it carries the "Plants VS Zombies, Angry Birds" style games? If you don’t advertise in places where normal people can see it frankly you shouldn’t be surprised when someone else jumps on that business.

      That said unless your screen is smaller than 15 inches, is a touch screen, and you prefer only having a single thing open full screen at a time then Win 8 is just painful, its like having a root canal with a rusty screwdriver. TIFKAM (The Interface Formerly Known As Metro) shotguns the screen with icons if you install more than your average cell phone user, good luck using multiple programs on a nice big screen, more than half the TIFKAM apps are obviously written for low res and look awful, heck even solitaire looks like crud, the whole thing is a mess.

      Final verdict? if its not a tablet Win 8 stinks, users won’t buy, Gabe keeps backing up the money truck and makes his Steambox, Linux doesn’t gain squat just as it didn’t when Vista came out.

  • I just realized what Gabe and Blizzard mean when they say this. Where would you get WOW right now if you wanted to play it? You’d go to their website and download it. But with Windows app store you can’t do that. So Microsoft is taking away their right to distribute their own games… I can see why they’re pissed about that.

    But I started thinking about it more. Microsoft will be taking 30% of application sales! And I wondered, who’s going to pay that extra 30%? Us. It’s a Microsoft tax, and it’s either a tax on developers or a tax on us. Because developers will either take the hit or we will. And don’t go saying anything about them being able to be a classic desktop app. That’s like forcing them to be a 2nd rate citizen on their platform of choice just because they want to distribute how they want and charge how much they want.

    Say no to Microsoft Tax! It has no place on our desktops.

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