Valve pushing for Linux as safeguard

Newell skeptical of Windows 8

Gabe Newell has expressed his doubts about Windows 8 and its effects on the PC market in a rare appearance at the Casual Connect event in Seattle.

While speaking on the necessity for open platforms, All Things Digital recorded Newell’s remarks explaining Valve’s recent move towards linux as a reaction to Windows 8.

“The big problem that is holding back Linux is games," said the Valve founder.

"People don’t realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior."

For a company that has invested millions in PC gaming, Linux is more than just another platform; it’s a safeguard against any changes to a successful formula.

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

"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."

But Valve has been expanding into new markets for some time, and is no longer dependent solely on Windows computers for its income.

With the introduction of a Mac steam client, and the release of Portal 2 for the PS3, Valve has shown it is a company unlikely to put all its eggs in one basket.

But Newell is adamant that progress depends on the availability of open platforms.

"In order for innovation to happen, a bunch of things that aren’t happening on closed platforms need to occur," he 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."

Newell blames the popularity of closed platforms on a prevailing cynicism within the industry.

"There’s a strong tempation to close the platform, because they look at what they can accomplish when they limit the competitors’ access to the platform, and they say ‘That’s really exciting.’”

“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.’”

Many of todays headlines have more to do with Valve’s investment in the future of platforms than with actual games, and Newell’s remarks go a long way towards explaining just why a software company has been interested in input devices and wearable computing.

“We think touch is short-term. The mouse and keyboard were stable for 25 years, but I think touch will be stable for 10 years. Post-touch will be stable for a really long time, longer than 25 years."

Valve then, is seeking to provide itself with the stability the changing landscape cannot afford them.

By seeking to shape the growth of technology, Valve is playing an active part in maintaining the environment it sees as critical to success.

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