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SteamOS is free on your TV, Steam Box could be tomorrow

Gaming on your TV could get a whole lot cheaper with SteamOS, a new free operating system designed to put the biggest games on your telly.

Gaming on your TV could get a whole lot cheaper with SteamOS, a new operating system announced by Valve. Based on Linux, SteamOS is free, meaning you can play Steam games on a cheap computer without shelling out for Windows.

"Finally, you don’t have to give up your favorite games, your online friends, and all the Steam features you love just to play on the big screen," Valve says on its website. "SteamOS, running on any living room machine, will provide access to the best games and user-generated content available."

Steam has long been rumoured to be working on its own machine -- a Steam Box, if you will -- and that might be Valve's next announcement. A series of cryptic symbols on its site runs: O, [O ] and O + O. O is SteamOS, announced last night. [O ] is due tomorrow night, 31 hours from the time of publication. It could be anything, of course, but the brackets are reminiscent of a box.

Since Valve made Steaming easier on your TV with Big Screen mode last year, a bunch of small companies have been making relatively cheap little PCs you can stick under your telly and mainly control with a console controller.

A Steam Box, possibly built by one of these manufacturers (rather like Asus makes the Nexus 7), could take that further, targeting the mainstream with an easy to setup and use console-type experience. And without a Windows licence to pay for, it'll be much cheaper.

As well as games that can run on Linux, which at the moment is a pretty small fraction of Steam's huge PC game library, SteamOS can stream Windows and Mac games from another computer. "Just turn on your existing computer and run Steam as you always have -- then your SteamOS machine can stream those games over your home network straight to your TV!" the company enthuses.

It's also planning on adding music and movie services, although it doesn't specify which. "Soon we will begin bringing them online, allowing you to access your favorite music and video with Steam and SteamOS," it says, presumably as apps you can download for free.

The system will have multiple account options too, so different family members can log in separately, chat with their friends and earn their own achievements. You'll be able to share games too, as long as only one person is playing at any given time.

We'll keep an eye on Steam announcements in the coming days. Are you in the market for a low-cost gaming computer you can play like a console? Would you rather give Valve your money than Microsoft or Sony? Or is Windows too useful to give up? The comments are open, as is our Facebook page.