Steam to start offering non-gaming apps next month

Valve has been busy lately. Its CEO, Gabe Newell, is publicly bashing Windows 8 and trying to build up Linux into a compelling alternative. Valve's developers are working hard on Linux ports of the Steam client and Left 4 Dead 2. And now, the company says it's going to expand its Steam digital distribution service to offer non-gaming software.

The first non-gaming apps will show up on Steam on September 5. They'll include creativity and productivity software, and apparently, some of the apps will feature Steamworks integration—just like Steam games. "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," says the company. Indie developers will be able to submit their software for public consideration through Steam Greenlight, as well.

It's interesting Valve would make this move just as Microsoft prepares to release Windows 8, which will have its own, built-in software distribution service: the Windows Store. The playing field is crowded on the Mac side, too, where Apple's Mac App Store has been featured in two successive OS X releases. Valve claims it's merely fulfilling popular demand, though. "The 40 million gamers frequenting Steam are interested in more than playing games," says Valve's Mark Richardson. "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."

I suppose Valve could easily lure in customers by organizing tantalizing sales, as it does with games. The company may also find an audience among stragglers who choose not to upgrade to Windows 8. Still, Valve will have its work cut out if it's going to compete with Microsoft's and Apple's in-house distribution services.

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