Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road. -- Stewart Brand
August 8, 2012 5:24 PM   Subscribe

Steam to sell productivity software [main link]. Gabe's dislike of the Windows 8 app store [BBC] may be explained. It's particularly interesting given that Steam is about to launch on Linux [Valve] [previously on Mefi]; it's one app store across all three platforms.

Valve's press release:


Launch Set of "Software" Titles Coming Sept 5

Aug 8, 2012 -- Valve, creators of best-selling game franchises (such as Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal, and Team Fortress) and leading technologies (such as Steam and Source), today announced the first set of Software titles are heading to Steam, marking a major expansion to the platform most commonly known as a leading destination for PC and Mac games.

The Software titles coming to Steam range from creativity to productivity. Many of the launch titles will take advantage of popular Steamworks features, such as easy installation, automatic updating, and the ability to save your work to your personal Steam Cloud space so your files may travel with you.

More Software titles will be added in an ongoing fashion following the September 5th launch, and developers will be welcome to submit Software titles via Steam Greenlight.

"The 40 million gamers frequenting Steam are interested in more than playing games," said Mark Richardson at Valve. "They have told us they would like to have more of their software on Steam, so this expansion is in response to those customer requests."

For more information, please visit www.steampowered.com
posted by jaduncan (29 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Hell yeah, bring on an android and iOS marketplace too.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:35 PM on August 8, 2012

Awesome, totally awesome.
posted by iamabot at 5:36 PM on August 8, 2012

Hi, I'll be your commentor who asks where Half Life Two Episode Three is tonight.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:39 PM on August 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

posted by mccarty.tim at 5:40 PM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

iOS marketplace too

Before or after the entire Apple senior management team get replaced by alien space bats?
posted by jaduncan at 5:41 PM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Maybe I am just jaded right now but selling more stuff means more customers to support. They should be working to sell more hats in TF2 , not selling WinZip to grandma.

A Linus app store is cool I guess, but to linux peeps buy software ?

Also, 10 years from now nobody will remember Valve used to make games.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:48 PM on August 8, 2012

Soooo... apps that are actually stored ON my computer, so they work even without an internet connection, and are still synced online when I am connected, no matter which computer I'm on?

Oh, Google, you may be so fucked.
posted by charred husk at 5:50 PM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

A Linus app store is cool I guess, but to linux peeps buy software ?

I've always wished for more commercial software for Linux. I would be extremely happy to pay for Linux Photoshop or Lightroom or some half-decent music composition software if it were available. Which is half the reason I've finally given up on Linux in the last year and gone to OSX.
posted by Jimbob at 6:01 PM on August 8, 2012

So they are magic apps, not just the same apps we already have but available from Steam ? They could do that using some sort of virtualization. I don't think syncing installed apps seemlessly and more importantly cleaning them from computers once the user is done with them is feasible. It isn't going to work if I go to the library and try to use my Steam photoshop. I might not have rights to install it, and Photoshop will now be on that machine until someone removes it.

They must think they have some sort of secret sauce to make this make sense for them from a business perspective. For Microsoft and Apple, it makes sense even if they lose money because it helps the entire platform......

So Valve must be trying to make pennies on the margins or there is a Valve Platform waiting in the wings.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:01 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm cautiously optimistic, but I wonder how this is going to work with multi-computer setups. A good number of people have desktops and laptops and Steam allows only one login at a time.

I can tolerate this for games, I'm going to be less happy about this for anything work-related.

I just realized this is going to be a problem when they release the Linux version as well - I typically have a Windows desktop and a Linux desktop going for different reasons, and a single Steam login at a time is going to be a pain.
posted by dragoon at 6:03 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

@Ad hominem Ubuntu's Software Centre has been selling apps for a few years now.

@Jimbob have you tried Renoise? I haven't, but it seems pretty together.
posted by tronfunkinblo at 6:06 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Categories have already appeared
posted by Ad hominem at 6:13 PM on August 8, 2012

I like steam for games but I don't think I'll buy apps from them.

Steam puts its DRM into the games it sells. This DRM theoretically doesn't require an always on internet connection. However, I've had problems with their offline mode in the past and find it finicky. It may be better now, but if I can't play a game, I'm annoyed. If I can't do real work, read an ebook, or listen to my music, I would be enraged.

Then again, I'm a cheap sod and use a lot of free (speech & beer) software. So maybe I'm not really in the target market. I'll pay for games at a deep discount but I generally use free apps.
posted by jclarkin at 6:16 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not entirely sure about the real, actual details of Valve's offering. Steam Cloud works pretty well with games, but I'm still gonna back up to removable disk for my professional output (and that's even assuming I care to commingle my professional life with my personal one, which ehhhh).

I can see this being super-useful as a creator, where my apps get exposure in a heavily used marketplace where people are used to spending money. If I have my YokelSoft page and my YokelSoft product, there's going to be a certain group of people who are hesitant to spend money on some unknown quantity.

Aside from the known quantity factor, Steam gets a creator a distribution network, forums (if desired) and IAPs: If my music production software can use patches or commercial vst plugins, how awesome is it to have all that in a central location that minimizes my time and effort, and lowers the threshold to purchase for my customers?

posted by boo_radley at 6:21 PM on August 8, 2012

Does this mean Steam is going to get a professional white background?
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:36 PM on August 8, 2012

Coming soon: Antitrust 2: Appstore Edition

Seriously, this seems oddly similar to the issue of browser inclusion in Windows back in the mid-90's. The fact that both Apple and Microsoft have included software stores in their OS would seem to be using their control of the operating systems market to gain control of the software sales market. I mean, how can the Steam store expect to compete against the Windows app store that's built into the OS?

Seems like this could become an issue as software distribution moves to a centralized store model more than just smartphones and tablets.
posted by PhillC at 6:43 PM on August 8, 2012

Important fact: Microsoft doesn't want Metro software to be distributed through anything but their own store. In that light, I think this is an interesting development. There are a lot of people who don't want their PC to be a dumbed-down touchscreen device, and I think Valve is trying to position themselves accordingly.

I suspect (given their existing install base and the fact that software for creatives does not translate well to Metro) that this will do much, much better than the Microsoft store.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:46 PM on August 8, 2012

Extreme Accounting Spreadsheets 2012
posted by littlesq at 6:59 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Extreme Accounting Spreadsheets 2012
posted by littlesq at 9:59 PM on August 8 [+] [!]

I discovered you can actually put any app into steam as a non-steam game a while back, and that you can also rename said steam shortcut to anything you want. Much fun productivity mahjong was had with 'Half-Life 3 Developer Preview'...
posted by mcrandello at 9:05 PM on August 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

There have been a number of articles recently about Valve's "let the developers do whatever they want" approach to software, but so far it doesn't seem to have had any visible effect. The company makes games and game delivery software. But this story makes me wonder whether they hired a developer who promptly said, "I can do anything, hunh? I want to write a word processor!"
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:40 PM on August 8, 2012

I need productivity software that stops me making drunken impulse buys from the Steam Store.
posted by fonetik at 11:45 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I believe you meant, Et tue, Gabte?
posted by Slackermagee at 12:10 AM on August 9, 2012

That Steam will sell cross-platform productivity apps is awesome news, but the bigger idea should be that Linux as a desktop won't really be important to end users but rather it will probably be designed to run on whatever gaming hardware Valve eventually releases. Cross-platform tells me it will probably be an x86-64 machine with embedded graphics and an HDMI out, like a beefed up media PC. Stuff like the Ouya is just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by tmt at 2:35 AM on August 9, 2012

I was wary of Steam back in the day but eventually acquiesced during the reign of the Orange Box. These days I'm really starting to get a bit unsettled again. They seem almost a self-parody of a dystopic, tentacled evil corporation with too-clever-by-half marketing and branding, and a teeming army of fans willing to happily accept every ratcheting up of corporate control. Interacting with Steam, to me, feels like making a deal with the devil. Sure, I got my shiny Skyrim: Vampire Lover's Edition Episode 4 but what will be the hidden cost?
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 8:10 AM on August 9, 2012

I'm hopeful that achievements will now be added to various office software. Like maybe Word would have one for removing smart quotes from a document, or figuring out how to paste text from a web page into a document without completely destroying the formatting; Excel could have a whole series of pivot-table achievements, etc.
posted by whir at 9:27 AM on August 9, 2012

And on an interesting side note, Steam has recently changed their EULA to prevent class action lawsuits and force disputes to be resolved by binding arbitration. IANAL, and don't have any particular knowledge in this area of contract law, but I do wonder whether the change was related to the sale of non-game software.
posted by whir at 9:34 AM on August 9, 2012

I want that DOMINATING music to play when I send a quote that beats one of my competitors again.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:19 PM on August 9, 2012

re: discussion about apps actually being on your pc and accessible even when you have no internet connection -

my understanding of Steam's "offline" mode is as follows (through daily use, and all of this applies to the gaming side of things specifically - maybe they'll have a different system in place for non-games?), and someone who can back up a disagreeing viewpoint with actual steps to take to avoid what i'm about to outline PLEASE DO BECAUSE IT DRIVES ME FRICKIN' NUTS -

Steam has an "offline mode", which allows you run software even when not connected to the internet. in order to access this mode, however, one must be ONLINE and switch to offline mode through the menu.

if you are in running software and your Steam client is currently in online mode and you lose your internet connection, the game you are currently playing will remain open and functional (unless, obviously, the game itself relies on an internet connection). HOWEVER, you will be unable to switch to offline mode and therefore unable to launch any further software until you are able to reconnect to the internet, as the client is currently assuming you will be authenticating before each new piece of software is launched.

in practice, i basically leave Steam in offline mode all the time unless i'm applying updates or playing something online-specific. this works until you forget and suddenly find yourself with no internet connection.

not having access to software you've paid for is one of my biggest fears/gripes with Steam, and i basically go LALALALALA and plug my ears when i think about it, hoping the whole time that should Valve ever go under as a company that Gabe and co will be kind enough to send down one more Steam update that just unlocks your library.

(i also believe Steam launches itself in online mode after a reboot regardless of your last setting, but i'm not in front of it right now and can't test it, so assume everything in this specific particular parenthetical to be "i'm pretty sure, but could totally be wrong").
posted by radiosilents at 8:23 PM on August 9, 2012

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