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SteamOS: What we know so far and what to expect

SteamOS is coming on Friday (Dec 13th) and we thought it would be a good time to summarize what we've learned about it so far.


Read our follow-up blog post on this post here.

SteamOS is coming on Friday (Dec 13th) and we thought it would be a good time to summarize what we've learned about it so far.

Keep in mind that most information in this post is gathered from current Steam builds and might have changed in SteamOS.

Operating System

Up until recently we believed that SteamOS was heavily based upon Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS going off the apt repository they have. However, when the Steam Machine was introduced to the press a few weeks back Valve told Engadget that SteamOS is "not based on Ubuntu, but entirely custom".

In my opinion, SteamOS will still be based on Debian (which is what Ubuntu is based on) since all their testing so far has been on Ubuntu.

Valve also recently put their apt repository ( behind a content delivery network on a separate domain ( indicating they are preparing the repository for widespread use.


Most if not all of your time on SteamOS will be spent inside of Steam's Big Picture interface. There are some SteamOS specific things, though! Here's the initial setup wizard you get after starting SteamOS for the first time.

Language settings Time Zone settings Network settings

Some other screens that are SteamOS specific:

Interface settings (enables Linux desktop) System settings (note the update stuff) Network settings

In case there's something really specific you need to do (or want to run normal applications not through Steam) you'll have to enable access to the Linux desktop as shown on the left screenshot above. The desktop will probably have a nice Steam background and Plymouth theme.

The Steam Controller also has a controller configuration called "steamdesktop" (download) to emulate the mouse and parts of the keyboard, so you can get back into Steam after accidentally quitting Big Picture.


Valve recently announced that they will be holding a separate beta test (SteamOS not required) for the In-Home Streaming functionality. A surprisingly large part of the streaming functionality is already implemented in the Steam client. Valve only needs to ship the utility that handles the streaming and enable multiple logins on Steam from the same network. Beta will be starting very soon so keep an eye on the Homestream group (and be sure to join it for a chance of getting into the beta).

Streaming settings Start streaming Game launching


The music functionality seems almost fully implemented code-wise, but there are no layout files in the current beta client making it impossible to actually use or even see. Playing local music files, Spotify integration, pretty album art and all that other good stuff is still in. Music might go into beta testing very soon if this is any indication.

TV & Movies

We haven't seen much regarding movies or TV integration yet, there were some movie references in the layout files but nothing tangible yet. Don't expect this just yet.

Parental Controls (also known as Family Options)

Parental controls appeared on the Steam websites earlier this month, with a base implementation also alive and working in the Steam client. Here are some screenshots from both the Steam client and Steam websites.

Explanation of feature Filters Filters (older version)
Store lockout screen Game filters SteamOS/BP lockout

Family Sharing

The Family Sharing beta has been ongoing for a while and should be finishing up during or just after the SteamOS beta period.

Remote Control

Remote control functionality (through HTTP) is still getting updates now and then, we're not sure whether or not we'll see it this year.

Per-app controller configurations

Even though we haven't seen any Steam Controller configurations pop up on Steam Workshop, per app controller configurations are already available for some games. Expect many more to be added as more Steam Controllers get into the hands of developers.

Here's a list of games that already have a custom (experimental) Steam Controller configuration. The game name directly links to the configuration file, as they are in Valve's own format (VDF) you should use a text editor to look at them.

These are the configurations used by the controller for desktop use and apps that do not have a configuration set (by you or or the developer) yet.

There are currently 0 software titles that have Steam Controller configurations.

The Future

CES is coming up (January 7-10), OEMs are expected to announce their own Steam Machines along with a few game titles that haven't been revealed as SteamOS titles yet. Some OEMs such as iBuyPower, Piixl and Digital Storm already have gone ahead and announced their Steam Machines.

Shortly after CES, Valve is holding their own little conference (January 15-16) exclusively for developers. They'll be giving sessions on the Steam Machine, Steam Controller, Linux, their work on VR and much more. The event is mostly private, but some sessions might be recorded and uploaded for public consumption.

The Steam Machine / Steam Controller beta will be starting this Friday (December 13th), with SteamOS also being downloadable and some features appearing in the regular Steam Client as well.

Hopefully you thought this post was informative, if not let us know in the comments why and how we can improve in the future.
We'll have another blog post up soon after SteamOS has released with whatever we'll have found by then.

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