EA has had an online digital store for a while. I recall using it ages ago to purchase Sims 2 expansions and later Spore. Unfortunately, it was rather clunky, and was not at all a pleasant user experience.
Enter EA Origin, which is to be EA's seeming rebuttal to Steam. The two have seemingly not worked together incredibly well, with some EA games coming out months or years later on the Steam platform (which seems pretty unusual for a company of its stature). This new platform will be a shop, friend service, and presumably have other functions. I do wonder how this will connect with the various forums, or other services like BioWare's Social Network; perhaps it will alleviate the pain of trying to connect to their servers to authenticate content.
When it launches today, it is supposed to have 150 titles or so, and plans on expanding that. There are statements about exclusive limited editions available through Origin, as well as mention of Star Wars: The Old Republic as a downloadable title only available through them. What I cannot seem to find confirmation on (though I have seen whispers and rumors) is whether this means EA will be phasing out putting their games on Steam.
This new platform is not only for PCs, however, as it is going to support mobile games in the future. This is an area on which Steam has yet to touch, and presumably would be multiplatform, regardless of type of smart phone.
I am of two minds about this: Steam could use some decent competition, and if this provides it, I can get behind it. On the other hand, I like the ease of having most of my games all in one place, and when I can buy a game on Steam, I likely will. There also remains the skeptic in me who looks at Games for Windows Live and EA's previous horrible platform and wonders whether they can pull this off smoothly and make it work.
Considering Blizzard also has their own Battle.net, I suppose it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine a world where some of the bigger publishers offered their own Steam services, refusing to publish with that platform, or doing so on a delayed schedule.
Oh, and in case you missed it, Good Old Game has announced that it has partnered with EA to publish some of their back catalogue. First up is Dungeon Keeper, Wing Commander: Privateer, and Ultima: Underworlds 1 & 2. GoG.com mentions that there are more titles on the way, so get those wishin' and hopin' songs ready if there's something in particular you wish to see. Also, the fact that EA announced their Origin system near the fact that GoG.com is rereleasing games made by Origin Systems, who was acquired by EA back in the day, seems rather amusing.