The fundamental problem with SteamOS is that it’s trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Back when Microsoft announced Windows 8, Gaben denounced the operating system in the strongest possible terms.
I think that Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space. I think that we’re going to lose some of the top-tier PC [original equipment manufacturers]. They’ll exit the market. I think margins are going to be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, it’s going to be a good idea to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.
OEM margins weren’t the only thing Valve was concerned about back in 2012. The entire push behind SteamOS was predicated on the belief that Microsoft might lock game installations to the Windows Store or force developers to sell through its own platform. Such a maneuver would have been a catastrophe for Valve, which currently controls a significant share of PC gaming revenue. When that threat failed to materialize in Windows 8 or Windows 10, some of the fire went out of SteamOS. It doesn’t help that the OS is also much slower than Windows 10 in many games, even when testing titles based on Valve’s Source engine.