Valve's head honcho Gabe Newell recently told a class at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs that the biggest threat to the company's upcoming Piston (Steam Box) PC is Apple. This would presumably be not the case given that PC gaming and iOS gaming are worlds apart, but Valve won't be immune by the effects Apple has caused on the gaming industry since the introduction of the original iPhone and crazy-cheap games.
Newell suggests that Apple is gearing up to invade the living room, and that could spell bad news for the console gaming sector which still makes up the bulk of the gaming industry despite a shift of focus back to PC. It's bad enough that iOS devices can be played on an HDTV, but with all the talk of introducing an actual iOS-powered Smart TV that's intended to change the living room, Apple is currently looking like a predator waiting to strike on a school of fish.
"The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform," Newell said. "I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room?"
Valve's entry into the hardware space, via Xi3 Corp., will be interesting in that users will be able to easily upgrade the components without having to take the console route and buy a whole new hardware set. No one at CES 2013 would confirm Piston as the rumored "Steam Box," and there's a good chance it may not. But this form factor and modular design makes sense, keeping it not only small in the living room, but highly cost-effective in the long run.
With Apple's invasion looming in the distance, it's no wonder that console makers and PC-related industry veterans like Valve, Razer and Nvidia are looking for ways to defend both gaming arenas from whatever the fruity iPhone masker is gearing up to release. Everyone is seemingly loading up the torpedoes and battening down the hatches, readying for war.
"I think a whole bunch of hardware companies are going to be releasing products in the next 12 months — you'll hear it referred to as Miracast, [Project] Shield from Nvidia, or lots of other people," Newell said. "The biggest challenge, I don't think is from the consoles. I think the biggest challenge is that Apple moves on the living room before the PC industry sort of gets its act together."
Valve's Steam Box will be a Linux platform out-of-the-box, but customers will be able to install Windows if they desire. This is undoubtedly meant to keep the initial cost down although Valve is working hard to support Linux on Steam and beef up its Linux game library.