We first heard about Steam's Big Picture mode last February. At the time, Valve promised a couch-friendly user interface for its popular game distribution service. Few additional details were offered, and Valve became largely silent about Big Picture mode after the initial tease. Some 18 months later, the living room UI is due to make its beta debut. Check out the preview video Valve has put together to set the stage:
Big Picture mode looks like the sort of interface one might expect from a Valve console. There's more than just big fonts and controller-friendly navigation, though. Valve has added its own web browser and a novel virtual keyboard, both of which have been designed with gamepads in mind. The browser looks particularly intriguing, and the folks at Kotaku seem seem pretty impressed by the keyboard. Of course, the video points out that you're free to bring along a keyboard and mouse, if you prefer.
My Steam client doesn't have the Big Picture beta just yet, but the update will reportedly roll out later today. The alternate UI seems to cover the bulk of Steam's functionality, from game libraries to community features. There's a store, of course, complete with sales and what I suspect will be a growing collection of multimedia content. Indie Game: The Movie is already available via Steam.
As someone who has had a Steam-equipped gaming box in the living room for several years, I can't wait to try Big Picture mode. Valve may not be selling its own consoles (yet), but enthusiasts should have no problem rolling their own.