At CES 2013, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell provided an outline for Valve’s upcoming hardware, referred to for now as the Steam Box. Mr. Newell recently explained that Valve likes the idea of hardware capable of streaming to multiple displays through local networks.
Gabe also confirmed Valve's intentions to use Linux on its own machine but that users would be freely able to install a different OS, such as Microsoft's Windows, if they wish. He stated:
"We'll come out with our own and we'll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That'll be a Linux box. If you want to install Windows you can. We're not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination."
Mr. Newell also spoke of Valve's plans to create low-latency controllers with biometric input, and that Valve's eventual device (which has the current codename of "Bigfoot" inside Valve) will function as a home server that can broadcast to multiple displays. Gabe also said:
“The Steam Box will also be a server. Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simultaneous game calls. So you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it. We’re used to having one monitor, or two monitors -- now we’re saying lets expand that a little bit.”
Following on from hardware manufacturer Xi3's announcement of its own Steam-friendly hardware, Mr. Newell spoke of how Valve has its own approach for how it sees itself and other hardware companies integrating various aspects of the Steam platform. According to Gabe, Valve sees the types of hardware as "'Good', 'Better,' or 'Best'."
"So, Good are like these very low-cost streaming solutions that you’re going to see that are using Miracast or [Nvidia's] Grid. I think we’re talking about in-home solutions where you’ve got low latency. 'Better' is to have a dedicated CPU and GPU and that’s the one that’s going to be controlled. Not because our goal is to control it; it’s been surprisingly difficult when we say to people 'don’t put an optical media drive in there' and they put an optical media drive in there and you’re like 'that makes it hotter, that makes it more expensive, and it makes the box bigger.' Go ahead. You can always sell the Best box, and those are just whatever those guys want to manufacture."
Valve really wants to build a machine that’s quiet and focuses on high performance and quiet and appropriate form factors. If it manages to live up to the expectations of Valve, then this will cost a fortune. But then again, if it manages to live up to all the expectations of Valve, then it will be worth it.