Steam gaming platform maker Valve has started advertising for beta testers willing to give feedback on the company's forthcoming port of the system to Linux, it has been announced.
In a web notice short on detail, Valve made clear that this beta will initially be limited to "experienced Linux users," something that is as likely to fire up Linux devotees as limit interest in the software.
The only requirements are to have a Steam account and submit an online beta tester application form designed to weed out not only less technical users but less experienced gamers. Testers will also need to run Ubuntu 12.04.
Valve's sudden interest in Linux is no overnight conversion to the wonders of open source. Long available on Windows, Steam's co-founder and MD Gabe Newell (himself a former Microsoft employee) described the changes that could be wrought to software sales by Windows 8 as a potential "catastrophe."
In particular, the Windows Store would allow Microsoft to control which titles are sold to Windows users not to mention taking a 30 percent cut for itself, he said.
Getting its Linux port up and running would allow users to access best-selling titles including Half-Life, Portal and Left 4 Dead - and several thousand more cult titles - something that would certainly give Linux a boost against a Windows environment under pressure and in transition.
Valve has also started offering non-games software which hints at a deeper core to its friction with Microsoft. In the past, anything that has challenged the dominant (if old-fashioned) idea that oeprating systems are the primary paltform for software has met with short shrift from Redmond.
Not everyone has been enamoured by Valve's Linux plans with Richard Stallman accusing the company of undermining the philosophy of free software by using Linux to host commercial software using Digital Rights Management (DRM) anathema.
Nonfree software in GNU/Linux distros already works against the goal of freedom. Adding these games to a distro would augment that effect," Stallman said.
And so it starts even if where the Linux and games idea ends remains uncertain.