SteamOS is a linux-based operating system built around Steam and its big screen mode. The main difference between SteamOS and other Linux distributions is that it is tailored for living room use.
"we’ve come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself," announced Valve. "SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen."
SteamOS will be available soon as a "free stand-alone operating system for living room machines."
Valve is expected to announce Steam Box, a console-like PC running SteamOS, but the company has no plans to tie the new operating system to its hardware. In fact, Valve founder Gabe Newell promised that users will be able to alter their hardware anyway they like.
Valve asserted that SteamOS is heavily optimized for gaming. "In SteamOS, we have achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and we're now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level," they explained. "Game developers are already taking advantage of these gains as they target SteamOS for their new releases."
According to the company, "hundreds" of games already work natively on SteamOS and several triple-A titles will be announced soon.