Chrome OS teams are working hard to bring support for the Steam gaming platform to Chromebooks. First reported by Android Police, incoming support for the platform was confirmed by Chrome OS Director of Product Management, Kan Liu.
The reveal came during a discussion with the source at CES 2020. Mr. Liu hints that although Steam is already available on Linux — which can be run on Chromebooks — Valve is becoming directly involved in the project. That has not been directly confirmed. But other information was also suggested to indicate that this won't be a half-finished addition to Chrome OS either.
Steam on Chrome OS won't necessarily be best on any current Chromebook
One of the big questions surrounding the arrival of Steam on Chrome OS derives from the hardware itself. Most Chromebooks, as of today, simply wouldn't be able to run most games well using native hardware. While game streaming could offer one answer to that, that isn't likely to be the first answer.
Mr. Liu has implied that Radeon-branded GPUs would be behind the start to Steam support on Chromebooks. Namely, the director pointed out that more powerful AMD Chromebooks are in the works. According to Mr. Liu, the source should "stay tuned."
AMD Chromebooks have already arrived and plenty of others already ship with high-performance Intel chipsets as well. In fact, for now, Intel chipsets are the more powerful option on Chrome OS. The problem with that is that no Chromebooks feature GPUs that are either dedicated or really powerful enough to drive big titles.
That's one of the reasons Google opted to utilize its server banks and cloud software for gaming with Stadia. Stadia represents the first dedicated gaming platform compatible with Chromebooks.
Steam is run directly on the hardware though. So Mr. Liu's statement seems to be an indication that forthcoming Chrome OS gadgets will pack in much more capable graphics processors.
The AMD Chromebooks in question are, in all likeliness, those that were spotted in the Chromium Gerrit last year. In particular, there are several Chromebook designs incoming from Qualcomm, AMD, and even MediaTek that could signal a step in a more performance-first direction for the platform. That's linked directly to the company's power-heavy Ryzen platform with dedicated GPUs in tow.
When will this arrive?
All of that hardware would give Steam on Chrome OS via Linux a much more stable footing. Coupled with direct official support from Valve, it would give Steam a chance to genuinely perform on Chrome OS. That would, in turn, give users access to their entire gaming library on the world's most portable computer platform.
Chrome OS users shouldn't necessarily expect to see Steam arriving on the platform soon though. Not only did Chrome OS Director of Product Management Kan Liu not provide a firm date for arrival. There's not even a timeline. This is a relatively massive endeavor. Especially with consideration for the fact that Chrome OS is meant to be a lightweight cloud operating system.
There's also no confirmation that Valve is directly taking an interest. If that's the case, that will undoubtedly extend the timeline forward.