Earlier in the week we reported on the announcement of the Steam OS, as Valve announced part one of its three-part Steam Box plan and now, Valve followed suit with another announcement of the Steam Box hardware.
They’re known as Steam Machines, and multiple versions will exist with different prices, manufacturers, and hardware profiles. Valve won’t share the details on exactly what caliber of hardware we can expect the final products to be packing, but before the year is out, the company will send 300 prototypes to Steam users who qualify for the Steam Machines beta program.
As for what we expect to see in the first round of Steam Machines, well, here’s what we know so far: Valve’s prototype is built for people who prefer “the most control possible over their hardware,” but there will be other Steam Machines from different manufacturers that will be designed for people who care more about price, subtlety, or size. The Steam Machine is designed to run SteamOS, but you can modify it to run any operating system you please—though it’s probably smart to keep SteamOS installed on low-powered Steam Machines if you already own a beefy Windows gaming rig, since Valve’s operating system is capable of streaming games from another PC via Wi-Fi and as of this writing only a few hundred of the games on Steam run natively on the Linux-based SteamOS.
Sometime in 2014, Steam Machines from multiple manufacturers will be available for purchase. Steam will remain the same, so if you aren’t hip to the Steam Machine jive, you can simply stick with your traditional gaming PC rig and not miss a beat. Valve will allow other manufacturers to have control over their own Steam Machine, optimizing for anything they see fit, such as cost, performance, size — you name it. Valve will also allow you to do whatever you want with the Steam Machine, such as change the OS and hardware, install your own software, or even use it in hobby projects (take that, Raspberry Pi). The Steam Machine and SteamOS, Valve mentioned, will work well with gamepads, as well as a standard keyboard and mouse combo. The company that Gaben built did, however, note that more information about Steam Machine input will be released soon — perhaps this Friday when the final part of the three-part announcement is revealed.
The Steam machine is a Linux box with a modified OS, except you can install whatever OS you want (and will probably want to install Windows in order to get the majority of Steam’s library running on your machine). You can change the hardware however and whenever you want, just like the tower sitting below your desk. It can come in any configuration a manufacturer desires, like every PC you’ve ever used.