The first of Valve's three announcements for this week has arrived, and it probably isn't something many saw coming. Valve is introducing SteamOS, which is precisely as it sounds, as it's an operating system built around Steam and based on Linux. It's an operating system designed for the living room in order to bring PC gaming to big-screen TVs in an easier fashion than currently available. SteamOS has "significant performance increases in graphics processing," so games should look just fine on this new OS as they already do on Windows. Valve is targeting audio performance next, as well as reduced input latency, so this really will be a bonafide operating system for living room PCs.
Since it's Linux-based, SteamOS is a very open platform, meaning the "hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they’ve been able to." It also means game content can be delivered directly to the users, and hopefully no waiting a long time for patches to get approved. Both the hardware and software can be changed whenever the user wants, and gamers themselves can more readily join the modding scene. Valve plans for SteamOS to evolve over time, just like Steam itself, but an environment for innovation is always going to be at its core.
Valve is also planning to introduce four new features for the living room that'll come to both SteamOS and the Steam client itself. The first is in-home streaming, where you turn on your PC and run Steam like usual, and then SteamOS can stream those games directly to your TV. Next Valve will bring "many of the media services," such as TV, movies, and music, along for the ride. Third is Family Sharing, which has already been revealed, to allow game lending to your family and friends. Finally there's Family Options to bring greater control to your library, so you can hide certain games from your kids, siblings, other family members, and anyone else who has access to your machine.
SteamOS is going to be available soon as a free download to anyone who wants it, as well as a freely licensable OS for manufacturers. Valve will have more information on it soon, plus we do have those two other announcements as well. The second one is set to expire at 10am Pacific on Wednesday, and I imagine the third will do the same on Friday.