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Valve's answer to game consoles: Steam Machines

Continuing its series of reveals, today Valve announced a new line of living room hardware built for its upcoming SteamOS, to be rolled out in 2014.
Continuing its series of reveals, today Valve announced a new line of living room hardware built for its upcoming Linux-based SteamOS, due out in 2014. The announcements this week mark Valve's move into the living room, a space that for decades has been dominated by a select handful of proprietary video game consoles. With Valve's 50 million-strong Steam distribution platform and plans for an open ecosystem, the company is poised to spearhead big changes in living room video gaming. Details on the actual hardware specs for Steam Machines are, for the moment, close to nonexistent. However, Valve says in the course of its announcement that "there will ultimately be several boxes to choose from, with an array of specifications, price and performance." Furthermore, in order to home in on those specs, Valve has announced a hardware beta test for 300 selected users. "We have designed a high-performance prototype that's optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam," Valve explained in its announcement. "A small number of users (30 or less) will be chosen [from beta tester applicants] based on their past community contributions and beta participation. The remainder will be chosen at random from the eligible pool." Beta testers who are ultimately selected for prototypes are encouraged to share their impressions from the kits online, which reflects Valve's confidence in its new hardware. However, it also represents a clever marketing strategy, similar to what Google has been doing with early units of Google Glass. You can learn how to sign up here. The prototypes are expected to ship later this year. Shortly after the Steam Machines unveiling, Valve also went live with its closed beta for the recently announced Family Sharing service, which will allow users to share content libraries across multiple devices.

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