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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 25, 2013 at 10:44 AM

Valve: Multiple companies making Steambox gaming machines

There is not a Steambox coming from Bellevue game giant Valve.

There’s a variety of Steamboxes coming, from multiple manufacturers, Valve said today.

steambox

Valve continued to tease out the news of its entry into the game hardware business by posting barebones details of its upcoming systems.

The company also invited fans to register to test prototype systems that Valve is building itself. These will be released this year, in preparation for the “powerful new category of living-room hardware” that’s coming next year.

“Beginning in 2014, there will be multiple SteamOS machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers,” the company said on its “living room” Web page.

The news follows Monday’s disclosure that the company is producing SteamOS, a version of Linux optimized for gaming and use with a TV set in a living room setting. Further details will be released Friday.

Valve’s announcements coincide with CEDIA, a trade show in Denver this week for manufacturers and installers of home theater and entertainment systems.

In years past Microsoft’s Windows Media Center software was used by some of these companies as the foundation of their entertainment systems. But with Microsoft winding down development of the product there may be an opening for Valve’s SteamOS, especially if it combines a full suite of online media apps with its widely used Steam game network.

By providing an open platform for system builders, Valves also is providing an intriguing alternative to locked-down game consoles that are increasingly positioned as entertainment hubs.

Valve will release 300 of the systems to selected users of its Steam gaming service for free this fall. Up to 30 will be chosen based on their past involvement with Valve testing. The rest will be chosen at random.

Like a PC, the Steam machines will be available in a variety of configurations depending on how much power users want and how much noise they’re willing to tolerate in their living room. Valve’s prototype system is apparently open to tinkering.

“The specific machine we’re testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware. Other boxes will optimize for size, price, quietness, or other factors,” the company said.

Steam systems will work with existing game controllers or mice and keyboard setups. Valve also may be working on its own input device and promised to release more details soon.

Price and specifications weren’t disclosed.

“We’ll tell you more about it soon,” Valve said on its teaser website. “Remember, there will ultimately be several boxes to choose from, with an array of specifications, price, and performance.”

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