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Nvidia claims SteamOS partnership

Chip company and graphics specialist Nvidia has put its considerable weight behind Valve's Linux-based SteamOS.

business Updated: Sep 27, 2013 15:30 IST

Chip company and graphics specialist Nvidia has put its considerable weight behind Valve's Linux-based SteamOS.



By announcing plans to optimize the Linux-based SteamOS for its own range of components, Nvidia has ensured that Valve's free operating system has a fighting chance and becomes a viable option for many PC gamers.

It's a big deal as Linux development traditionally values openness, with users able to prise apart apps and code; companies compiling for other systems tend not to allow that, in order to retain ownership and a competitive advantage.

Nvidia explains rationale
Nvidia's senior technical evangelist, Mark Smith, explained the move on his company blog.

"Nvidia engineers embedded at Valve collaborated on improving driver performance for OpenGL; optimizing performance on Nvidia GPUs; and helping to port Valve's award-winning content library to SteamOS; and tuning SteamOS to lower latency, or lag, between the controller and onscreen action."

"Both companies strongly believe in the importance of open-platform innovation, and both companies are committed to providing gamers with a cutting-edge visual experience."

Linux creator welcomes move
And Nvidia has also agreed to help improve Linux compatibility in more general terms, working with the programmers of Nouveau, a piece of software which makes Nvidia equipment work on Linux systems.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that this is a real shift in how Nvidia perceives Linux," the OS's creator Linus Torvalds told Ars Technica. "If Nvidia really does follow up and start opening up more, that would certainly be great."

With fellow graphics group AMD powering the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U games consoles, Nvidia's partnership with Steam makes sense -- but it doesn't rule out AMD collaboration on the SteamOS and Steam Machines projects.

Message board prediction comes true
It does, however, lend some credence to a series of anonymous posts on the 4chan messageboard purportedly from a Valve employee.

"Why Nvidia? They reached out to us and have been extremely co-operative. They even let us use their streaming tech -- the one they showcase on the Shield (which is getting Steam integration btw, as are all Tegra devices)," the contributor wrote.

"Expect extremely good Linux drivers from them over the next few months. AMD is... hesitant to commit."

But while the post promised full compatibility with recent Nvidia and AMD cards, it predicted a detailed hardware announcement on September 25 that failed to materialize.