The Newest PC Battle is on the Television

September 24, 2013

Today, Valve announced SteamOS – the popular gaming platform’s attempt at competing more directly with the Xbox and Playstation. With Apple TV and Google Chromecast, not to mention Samsung’s ‘Smart TV’ incentives, we are seeing a big shift from traditional television and the big tech companies are taking over. I don’t think this is a bad thing.

There is currently an interesting collection of “high tech” TV options. Microsoft, Sony, and to a lesser extent, Nintendo, are providing their television content through consoles. Google, Samsung, and Apple, on the other hand, are selling a more “traditional” television experience with add-ons through their other services. Valve is taking this a step further with SteamOS, providing a free “operating system” for your television set.

What I find interesting is the reception of SteamOS – when the announcement for the Xbox One focused on similar concepts of game streaming and indicated a potential shift towards a Valve-like gaming ecosystem, it was met with quite a bit of rage and pushback from traditional gamers. The curiosity for me stems from the potential market Valve is looking for here – It seems to me they want to take back the living room from Microsoft and Sony, and it has yet to be seen if this will happen.

While Valve slowly but surely makes its moves against Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, though, the other two playing fields are curiously quiet. Chromecast is a cool device, but not necessarily a revolutionary one. Apple, though, has been silently sitting on Apple TV and just released the update to an OS based on iOS7. Where does that put them? Directly poised to move into the gaming sector.

“But Livi,” you may be thinking, “Apple isn’t a gaming company.” Well, neither was Microsoft – but they saw the opportunity with Xbox and went for it, and today it’s still one of the biggest names in entertainment devices. These companies innovate in unfamiliar territory and merge seemingly unrelated technologies to create new experiences that we didn’t even know we wanted. As Microsoft, Sony, and now Valve get closer and closer to replacing the traditional television model completely, it makes sense that Apple will need to jump in and round out their offering. They’ve already got their game controller APIs ready to go, and it feels unlikely to me that they’re going to be pushing a handheld controller for a handheld device – which is why the Apple TV makes so much more sense.

So who becomes the odd one out? Valve has a fair amount of catching up to do. Apple has a huge app market full of games for iOS already, but it could be a little while for those to reach their full potential on a big screen. Sony and Microsoft still have a leg up, and I feel like Google still has a way to go even with Chromecast due to the split between Android and Chrome OSes. While Nintendo doesn’t feel like a big player, it has the framework set for potential and could (relatively easily, I would think) begin bridging the gaps it has within the market.

Who wins out here? We do. Bye bye, sucky cable providers!

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