Valve puts apps on Steam, Microsoft still lacks a Windows 8 strategy

Opinion: Microsoft management still doesn’t get their own market

Valve logoValve is giving Microsoft the single finger salute by offering apps on Steam, and users win. This is well into the ‘about damn time’ category, and SemiAccurate can’t think of anything bad coming from it. Unless you are Microsoft.

The idea is simple, Valve has 40 million gamers “frequenting Steam”, and got them by doing what Microsoft couldn’t and wouldn’t, make functional software that does what users want. It took over a decade to make it right, and Microsoft, late to the game and half-assed as usual, decided to cut Valve out of the Windows 8 app sales picture entirely as a thank you.

While Valve isn’t the only one to get stepped on by Microsoft’s power grab, just ask Acer, HP, or simply read Microsoft’s own words in their last 10-K. We first broke this story over a month ago, and it was denied up and down until people did the research and found what SemiAccurate did, Microsoft is burning their last bridges in sheer panic.

That was hardware, and now the software people are coming out of the woodwork too, they don’t like the 30% toll that Microsoft is demanding for Windows 8 software on the their (not an) App Store. Valve was first, Blizzard then chimed in, and everyone else is looking for a way out even if they don’t vocalize their anger. Enter Valve with said way out, and they have Microsoft in a serious bind.

Why? Microsoft can just pull an Apple and ban Valve, Steam, and any competition from Win8, WART, and other devices for nebulous security related reasons. Actually, they don’t really need a reason, they can just ban them like Apple does, and make life intolerable until the vendor gives up and goes away. See Adobe’s Flash for iPhone if you want more on this. The tactic works, and will keep anyone Microsoft doesn’t want to compete with out of the picture.

Except Valve.

Why? 40 million users. 40 million avid gamers that buy software. 40 million avid gamers, game companies, and people who have invested literally billions of dollars in games. Those games are 100% tied to steam. Games are the only thing that ties PCs to Microsoft these days, everything else is better, more secure, and more stable when it is not on Windows. If Microsoft cuts out Valve, or even makes life a teeny bit hard for Valve, much less pulls a Wordperfect, they will cut 40 million users out of their software library. If they needed yet another reason not to upgrade to Windows 8/WART, this would be it.

Arbitrarily cutting out large swaths of their user base has never stopped Microsoft before, they Zuned everyone who stupidly bought in to their music DRM infection, cut out large numbers of users with arbitrary Vista incompatibilities, neutered the antivirus industry with Defender (Author’s Note: And Windows has been 100% malware free since, right? Bwahahahaha!!!), and shut their OEMs out of the tablet and clamshell markets, so who will notice yet another episode?

Enter Valve and Steam. With Apps on Steam, Valve is flipping Microsoft off. If you thought the announcement of Steam for Linux was a shot across the bow, Apps are far worse. Why? Steam, for all the pain of the past, works really damn well. It is as fair, as unintrusive, and as light as a DRM infection can possibly be, and Valve usually resolves most user problems well too. It is far from perfect, but much better than anything else out there.

Microsoft’s DRM laden App store takes a massive cut out of the developer’s profits, forces them to code in proprietary and non-portable languages, is not compatible with current Windows software, and in general, means a ground up rewrite of your code. No, worse than that, it requires a complete re-architecting of the code, complete with coding to Microsoft’s broken new UI paradigms that can’t be called Metro anymore. The end result is code that is more locked to Microsoft than before, and can only run on the latest iteration of Windows.

So, Microsoft can cut Valve out of Windows 8/WART on a whim. And then they cut out 40 million users who buy more than the average amount of software, hardware, and computers. Worse yet, these tend to be among the early adopters of any new OS. It would be tantamount to suicide for the already shaky Windows 8. Microsoft has cut out vendors, competitors, and even OEMs before, but only once have they done it to users, with Vista, and we all know how well The Broken OS fared in the market. (Author’s Note 2: Pre-Zune MP3 players had a userbase that rounded to Zero, so we don’t count that, but technically it is another example.)

It is highly likely that Valve knows this, and the timing of non-game support on Steam isn’t by chance. It is also highly likely that the thought of the bind it puts Microsoft in makes Gabe and company smile broadly. Even more likely is the fact that Microsoft management is unaware that they are tugging on the pin of a grenade as a means of dislodging it from their mouth. They are so out of touch, no flat out incompetent, that even when the impending pop is pointed out to them, they will keep tugging.

It may be up in the air as to which way the beast of Redmond plods, but either way, Valve will be offering apps on Steam on September 5. Valve isn’t forcing developers, developers, developers, and developers to pick sides, and both developers and users win. Valve wins too. Microsoft could win, but the odds are leaning heavily toward another footgun blast, followed by another scapegoating. The success of Windows 8/WART literally hangs in the balance, but either way, Valve has won. Well played guys, remind me to pat you on the head next time we meet.S|A

Author’s Note 3: SemiAccurate believes that the Steam App launch for Great Britain will be accompanied by a two fingered salute, not the US version’s single finger. Other areas will be localized as necessary, check with Valve about your specific country and custom.

Author’s Note 4: Doug – I got the bag and picture autographed. Be afraid……:)

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate