Are you ready for full-fledged Windows apps on your Xbox One? As revealed at the Build 2014 conference this week, Microsoft is hard at work to deliver universal applications across all of its platforms – including the Xbox One. While this isn't exactly the "buy once, run anywhere" future we quite hoped for, it does open up avenues for really interesting partnerships. Theoretically, even a third-party store like Steam could make its way onto the major consoles, and completely alter the gaming business.
Microsoft is already working on helping bring Khan Academy to the Xbox One, but there is so much more potential here. Eyes will most certainly roll at the idea of "Office for Xbox," but streamlining console ports of PC software is an incredible concept. The Xbox One is just specialised PC hardware, so why not take advantage of that fact?
Sadly, you won't inherently gain access to all of your Windows software on your Xbox One. Microsoft went out of its way to stress that developers can charge users for access on each individual platform, so don't expect cross-buy apps to be the norm.
I've long wondered how long it would take before we saw a version of Steam hacked to run on an Xbox One or PS4, but that might not be necessary. Windows apps are well on their way to the Xbox One, and that means that Steam could possibly make its way onto the existing consoles. Even if Microsoft prohibits Valve from distributing its own storefront on the marketplace, it does open the door for business deals to be struck.
If you go back a few years, Valve was very critical of the PS3. But after business between Valve and Microsoft turned sour over game updates, Valve made an unprecedented partnership with Sony for the launch of Portal 2. Many of the social features of Steam were baked right into the PS3 version of the game, and it was the first console implementation of Steam. There was no storefront, but it did set the stage for Valve's move into console territory.
Both Sony and Microsoft are protective of their platforms, but I could certainly see at least one of them potentially partnering with Valve. Imagine what a coup it would be for the Xbox One team if a large subset of Valve's library was made available on a Microsoft-branded console. Alternately, think of the possibilities of the Steam-PlayStation partnership being revitalised on the PS4.
Valve is a money-making juggernaut that is quickly moving into the traditional console space, so it would be wise for the major players to mitigate that risk. At the very least, I would expect to see Steam social features make their way onto at least one major console during this generation.