I’m not talking about the fact that I couldn’t find a single decent topic for Tweets of the Week; I’m talking Windows 8, and Gabe Newell’s opinion thereof. Valve’s beloved CEO had a few choice words for Microsoft’s next iteration of its flagship operating system at Casual Connect. “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. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PCs, and 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.” Gaben said. And then the Internet exploded, but not, sadly, in a fun way that would’ve lead to good fodder for a weekly best-of-Twitter article.
Still, it’s an interesting conversation. It’s not everyday you hear a developer slam the manufacturer of its primary hardware platform, although any company that released games for the Jaguar would’ve been excused for lashing out at Atari. This isn’t some fly-by-night game studio talking shit about the N-Gage; this is Valve, the prettiest, most popular girl at the prom, taking one look at Microsoft’s gown, tossing her hair, and declaring that the former head cheerleader’s dress came not from Saks Fifth Avenue but from the discount rack at Wal-Mart.
I’m no fan of Windows. Given the choice, I’d rather roll with OS X or Ubuntu. But computers are tools, and different tools are used for different jobs. If you need an application you can only find on a given operating system, you use that operating system. They all work. They all take electrons and turn them into something we can use to create documents, post cat pictures to Facebook, troll reddit, or find dwarf porn. Personal tastes aside, pretty much any computer running a modern operating system is going to get some kind of job done.
Which is why, although I’m no fan of Windows 8 myself, I find Gaben’s remarks a bit too dramatic. Despite all the new bells and whistles and dumbass attempts to make my desktop look like a tablet, Windows 8 is still Windows. It’s still going to work until it becomes infested with toolbars and crapware. Is Windows 8 stupid and unnecessary, especially considering XP’s current market share and 7’s recent still-feels-like-just-yesterday release? Hell yes. Is it Kefka harnessing the power of magicite to destroy most of the world? Probably not.
That said, porting Steam to Linux is flat-out smart. A significant portion of geekdom regularly proclaims it would switch to Linux full-time if only it were better for gaming; Steam will make that happen, and Slashdot will rejoice. It won’t be enough of a movement to affect any OEMs, though, because Joe Blow Average Consumer wouldn’t switch from Windows if you attached a car battery to his testicles. Joe Blow Average Consumer drives the market, and the inertia that keeps him running in place with Microsoft’s operating system is downright staggering. We hardcore geeks may seem legion at times, but we’re really just a niche audience.
There’s one more thing about the Linux announcement that set my spider-sense tingling. Remember that “Steam Box” console that was rumored to be under development a few months ago? If you were building a console today and wanted an off-the-shelf operating system you could freely tweak to match your every desire, you wouldn’t use Windows. You’d use Linux! Could porting Steam to consumer-grade Linux be the first step in a future foray into the console arena? It’s pure conjecture on my part, but it doesn’t feel that farfetched.
I love you, Gabe. Your games are great, Steam is awesome, and you seem like an all around good guy. We should have a beer sometime. I agree with your sentiment that Windows 8 looks kind of stupid, and that porting your service to other operating systems is a damn good idea. But is Windows 8 a catastrophe? No. Lindsay Lohan is a catastrophe. Windows 8 is more like Kristen Stewart: kind of funny looking and a bit perplexing, but at least you don’t have to lock up your jewelry when she’s around. And she’s going to keep getting all the big movie roles anyway.