What is SteamOS?
SteamOS is the console OS from Valve to turn PCs into consoles, but with PC things you love such as the ability to mod and use PC software. But it puts them in an easy to use package with a controller on the TV and removes some hassle that operating systems like Windows, Mac, Ubuntu (or other Linux distributions with a desktop GUI) and FreeBSD includes.
SteamOS grabs the drivers and updates the OS from within SteamOS Big Picture Mode. With Windows you have to download the newest drivers from websites and from Ubuntu you have to go to choose the drivers, then update them in the system updater, and then open steam. These all work and aren't particularly difficult but add a bit more hassle into a gaming experience.
SteamOS has little bumps in the road that prevent it from being a good console alternative for people who aren't used to the PC market.
SteamOS still has a way off having all games or games by default coming to both SteamOS and Windows, thus they need a better way of handling content not available for SteamOS coming into consumers eyes that they can't use. Currently if you open the store and go to Featured, you have a high chance of seeing some Windows only deal on the right hand side. For any Windows user it's like seeing Halo or Uncharted on the front page of Steam just to be told that you can't play it on Windows but need to go grab a PS4 instead. This is something that used to be a much bigger problem for Big Picture Mode as it used to just show whatever people running Windows would see, but to say it's not a problem currently is an issue.
People also realize there's a PC and phone client and a web app, which is great, but the problem with that is that Windows only games are shown there, possibly making SteamOS users feel upset about games they can't get. A solution could be to only show games that are available for all platforms by default, then choose the platforms you game on, and thus the front page would always only show you games you can play regardless of device.
Another difficulty people may have is that they're probably using a Steam Machine in a front room with no keyboard and mouse. They only have the Steam controller, which is great, and works with many more games than ordinary Dualshock 4s and Xbox 360 controllers, but there are still games that require a keyboard and/or mouse. Pony Island is one, you need a keyboard there to type. Sure you could use the onscreen keyboard option but that is a pain, is not practical in some games and is a lot less enjoyable than a keyboard. My solution to this would be, if you're in big picture mode with only a Steam controller connected, by default the only games that should show up are games that have full controller support or games that you can beat from beginning to end with a Steam controller—even if they originally needed a keyboard and mouse. This should include games that need keyboard and mouse if the system detects one, or one is selected in the store's settings screen.
Oneof the worst issues with Steam Machines is the confusion. What hardware we should buy is a problem we're going to have to deal with, but if a game works or not on your system with the current drivers shouldn't be a problem any more with SteamOS. SteamOS detects your hardware and Steam version, and knows the minimum system requirements for a game, so why not hide games with minimum system requirements that aren't met? This means gamers won't be disappointed that they can't play their game they just bought and that it's extremely laggy.
Please note that any game that I'm saying should be hid by default, should have an option not to hide. People who have the capabilities or are willing to deal with certain difficulties should be able to, just customers who perhaps don't have as much knowledge as hardcore gamers shouldn't have to risk these issues.
Separation of Media’s
Steam currently has several issues with displaying medias in Big Picture Mode. When you go to the store page the games and movies have an icon or a banner in which it shows a bit of the media the same way a bit of box art would. The issue is that they aren't separated at all, there's never anything to say which media it belongs to. The only thing below the icon is a price tag, possibly with a discount sticker with it. The only way you find out if the media is a game or movie is if you click on it, which isn't exactly a chore but makes the system seem less cohesive.
Steam does address this in some tabs a little further down if you wish to segregate medias inside a tab named “Browse”. This offers you to browse Games or Videos, so perhaps this isn't that big of an issue, but it should be talked about.
Now while we're talking about medias and videos, how can I miss out, Youtube and Netflix? There’s no app for SteamOS, simple enough. You can easily access these providers and many more via the internet browser but the UI isn't good, it's not fun, and is awful for a consumer. There's also no picture viewer or USB media playback. This means you can't browse photos on a USB stick or watch movies downloaded legally on your TV with the Steam Machine unless you pull yourself out of Big Picture Mode and into the desktop mode.
Perhaps a small amount of people like to view images on their TV via their console, but I'm sure many people use their consoles to play other media like music and videos. Whether that be via a USB stick, or YouTube, or Netflix, there are already tabs for music and videos. Why not let people import their own, and add a tab for apps and try to get big internet players on board?
Boot like a console
Currently SteamOS—at least on the Cyber, this is less true with the Alienware Steam Machine—is you turn it on, you get a BIOS screen, then a Steam Machine logo. Then sometimes it'll go to a SteamOS logo with a bar underneath it, go black for several seconds and then show the Big Picture splash screen.
With Alienware the BIOS screen doesn't show up—this as a console is a good thing. The BIOS screen makes it feel like a desktop when it should feel like a console. Just have a SteamOS boot screen in which you can go into the BIOS by holding down a button on the Steam controller or keyboard but don't make it look like a BIOS screen. Make it a SteamOS logo screen, then after a second or so of waiting the splash screen should awaken and let the players play.
The Steam Machine also boots games pretty slowly, perhaps this is a hardware issue, but for a console that costs double or more than a Playstation 4, the PS4 shouldn't boot games faster than the Steam Machine...
Now that most uncertainties of SteamOS have a solution the next is selling devices and getting games. The first step is to let people know it exists, get some advert time on TV, get advert space and advertise like crazy, get bigger slots in game retailers for hardware, make Steam stores. Just get out there, and give the world SteamOS and Steam on Linux.
Now Valve has said there wont be any SteamOS exclusives from them:
Valve’s Greg Comer[Y]ou won’t see an exclusive killer app for SteamOS from us. We’re not going to be doing that kind of thing.
I think this is negative for SteamOS; without exclusives there's little reason for anyone to try and use SteamOS or Linux. If they created Half life 3 and it was only available for SteamOS/Linux then you know a lot of people would install Ubuntu or SteamOS and may start to use it as their main gaming OS. If every new game comes to both systems and the exclusives are the difference between HL3, Portal 3, Team Fortress 3 on Linux and Halo Reach on Windows.
What do you think? What do you think would make SteamOS better and more successful in the mainstream?