Friday, July 27, 2012

Gabe Newell on Windows 8, post touch, and more

Gabe Newell isn't one to hold back his opinions and when queried about the future of gaming, he has quite a bit to say. At Casual Connect, the game conference aimed at casual games, he gave his thoughts on a range of topics, most interesting of which are his views on Windows 8 and what comes after touch.

Gabe Newell

In reference to Steam's decision to support Linux, Gabe says "I think that Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space. I think that we’re going to lose some of the top-tier PC [original equipment manufacturers]. They’ll exit the market. I think margins are going to be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, it’s going to be a good idea to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality." Though Linux has traditionally been viewed for power users and kernel-tweakers, its improving user interface and product compatibility make it a viable solution for people unhappy with Windows, but not ready to pay the price for a Mac.

The interviewer then asked what Gabe's thoughts on touch interfaces were. "If you look at the mouse and keyboard, it was stable for about 25 years. I think touch will be stable for about 10 years. I think post-touch, and we’ll be stable for a really long time — for another 25 years. I think touch will be this intermediate…." When pressed for specifics on what he thinks will define post touch, he mentioned the next big things being a combination of sensors, not just one, and also talked briefly about some experiments they did themselves.

"When you look at all of the muscles in your body, if you think of them as SCSI or USB, it turns out that your tongue is a pretty good way of connecting a mechanical system to your brain. But it’s really disconcerting to have the person you’re sitting next to going, 'Arglearglargle.' [Big laughs] 'You just Googled me, didn’t you?'" As strange as that sounds, many organizations have invested time and money into tongue-based input devices for a wide range of applications. And if this technology did become big, we could see the best sniper in Counter Strike also be the best make-out artist of all time.

tongue input device

Gabe added, much to my chagrin, "I don’t think tongue input is in our futures. But I do think you’ll have bands on your wrists, and you’ll be doing stuff with your hands. Your hands are incredibly expressive. If you look at somebody playing a guitar versus somebody playing a keyboard, there’s a far greater amount of data that you can get through the information that people convey through their hands than we’re currently using. Touch is…it’s nice that it’s mobile. It’s lousy in terms of symbol rate."

Gabe Newell is one of the more prolific figures in the modern gaming era, so his words carry weight. Could we be seeing a large Windows to Linux exodus at the dawn of 8? Or maybe touch will be out the door by 2020 and we'll all be using wrist watch sensors and Google Glass to interact with the internet and game devices. Nobody knows for sure, but when such bold statements come from a highly trusted source in the gaming world, it's difficult to discount.
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