Disruption - How SteamOS and XPages tie together

September 26 2013

It's not every day that I find the top news in my favorite hobby aligning with what I do in my professional life. This week, they are walking hand in hand. Let me explain why.

This week, Valve, the company behind the Half-Life, Portal, and Left4Dead franchisees, and the industry leading digital platform Steam, started a series of announcements on how they plan to bring Steam into the living room. For those not familiar with Steam, think of it as the Apple app store of games and software. 100% digital purchases, it also manages your gaming community and distributes patches and addon software (DLC). Steam is primarily used on computers, but last year the Big Picture feature was added. By attaching an HDMI cable between a computer and a TV, you can play your Steam games on your TV from the comfort of your couch. It also added controller (as opposed to the default mouse and keyboard controls on a computer) support.

Valve has been talking about finding ways to bring Steam into the living room, without running a cable across the house, for a couple of years. With some minimal support of Steam on the Sony PlayStation 3 for Valve games, that was a hint of what was to come. On Monday, Valve announced SteamOS, a custom variant of Linux that Valve will release. Valve's marketing says it best:

Steam is coming to a new operating system
As we’ve been working on bringing Steam to the living room, we’ve come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself. SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen. It will be available soon as a free stand-alone operating system for living room machines.


The focus on SteamOS is to provide the best platform for games. Combine that with yesterdays announcement on Steam Machines, Valve's official commitment to a dedicated console for SteamOS and games for the living room. Valve is trying to disrupt the gaming industry just as new consoles role out and Windows and Mac OSX have taken their eye off of games.

How does this tie into XPages and my job at PSC? Good question. As I am talking with customers and prospects, I am seeing a second age of XPages coming about.

When XPages first came out, the buzz was all about the new way of taking Domino applications and making them less dependant on the Notes client. In retrospect, the XPages in the Notes client was a brilliant move by IBM - it rewarded the effort to XPageize an application by supporting the traditional interface that people used them. But it also allowed for web and mobile access. The technical hurdle was high and the payoff for the effort was just ok. Why? Because XPages developers were still building Domino applications inside XPages. There are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, customers saw XPages through the  lens of the XPages Discussion template by IBM.

The shift has been happening over the past year. While not always obvious in daily blog posts, I saw it come to live at MWLUG 2013 this year. If I remember back to MWLUG 2012, people were still talking about 'how do I get my Notes application to the web via XPages?' As we asked attendees during Speed Sponsoring "Are you doing XPages?" the answer was "some" or "a little" or "we are playing around with it." This year, people were talking about "How do I build the best XPages application I can?" The answers to the Speed Sponsoring poll were a resounding "We are doing XPages and lots of it!" What is even better about this is more of the applications we are talking about with customers are not 'lets take this Notes application and replicate it on the web" but "here is a Notes application, let's build a best of breed successor to it using XPages." As a business development manager for a consulting firm with a significant XPages team, this makes me happy. As an advocate for the platform and the development community, it highlights the disruption that is happening. It wasn't something that happened overnight.

The XPages disruption is taking place around mobile. It is being built on the back of the community who have taken steps beyond the out of the box tools like Dojo. Bootstrap and jQuery Mobile and EXTJS have given the XPages developers freedom to experiment and create their own voice. Developers are moving past 'how can I make this look like a Notes app' and into 'let's build the best application I can using XPages.' These applications are being targeted for mobile before browser and a rich client.

In late summer 6 years ago, myself, Nathan Freeman, Howard Greenberg, and a small group sat in a room in Westford and were introduced to XPages. The workshop ended with Nathan showing the room that he was able to code an XPage displaying a pager that had content from multiple views and documents. The first example of a real cross-reference view without creating the HTML from scratch. Running in the Notes client. I remember Phil Riand being wowed at what partners and customers were able to do after three days (and plenty of alcohol). 6 years later, just look what we are doing now. With the XWork server at low as $1,000 and a XPages development ecosystem that supports the same tools and toolkits as the hot open source technologies, XPages can now be part of any development platform bake off.

Valve's is orchestrating it's disruption over a couple of announcements this week (with one more tomorrow and maybe a hidden fourth one as well), but it has been taking place over the past couple years. I saw the tipping point of the XPages disruption at MWLUG 2013, but it too has been happening over the past 12 to 18 months. This disruption isn't something IBM is orchestrating, it was done by the community. OpenNTF.org and blog posts and webinars. It's developers building applications and putting XPages into action. It's XPages in Practice. The disruption point is here. Let's all embrace it.

1 Responses to “Disruption - How SteamOS and XPages tie together”

  1. 1) Tim Tripcony says:

    AMEN. Very true... and very exciting.

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