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Valve opens Steam store to non-gaming software

Challenges Apple, Microsoft with desktop app store bid

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Games maker Valve has announced that it will begin offering non-game software through its popular Steam online content delivery platform, expanding the role of the service from a gaming destination to a general-purpose app store for desktop computers.

"The 40 million gamers frequenting Steam are interested in more than playing games," Valve's Mark Richardson said in a statement. "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."

The creator of the Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, and Portal game franchises did not reveal what non-game titles would be available on the revamped service, which launched on September 5, but said that they would range "from creativity to productivity."

Developers who create applications for the Steam platform will be able to take advantage of Valve's Steamworks APIs, which enable such features as automatic software updates and the ability to save files to Valve-hosted servers, the company said.

Steam's transition from gaming portal to app store will likely pit Valve against Apple, which already distributes games and applications through its Mac App Store, and Microsoft, which is readying an app store for Windows 8's NotMetro-styled apps, which will launch when the new OS ships in October.

Valve head Gabe Newell has made no secret of what he thinks of Microsoft's plans for Windows 8, which he has described as "a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space." In July, Newell said that his company was in the process of porting the Steam platform to Linux as "a hedging strategy" against the possibility that Redmond's latest OS will bomb.

Currently Steam runs on Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android, though Valve has not said which of these platforms will have non-game software available when the new app store debuts.

Valve said developers who would like to offer their software through its service should submit their applications to Steam Greenlight, a system that allows Steam users to vote on which titles should be offered in the store.

Newell has given no word on whether Windows 8 apps need bother to apply. ®

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