Valve could release a Steam Machine, but not anytime soon.
Valve Software's Gabe Newell confirmed Monday night during the Steam Machines event that the company has no current plans to release its own Steam Machine despite the 300 prototypes shipped off to testers. He indicated that Valve hasn't positioned itself as a "console" maker; that's what the Steam Machine partners are for. Thus consumers will have a variety of options rather than a single hardware set that becomes obsolete in several years.
"We're going to continue to make that decision [about releasing our own Steam Machine] as we go along," Newell said when asked about a commercial release date for Valve's prototype. "We have plans to build more machines, but we also expect that users will be really happy with the range of offerings from these hardware manufacturers."
"We really view our role in this as enabling. So we'll do whatever is going to be helpful to other hardware manufacturers – whether that's with controller design or something specifically tied to boxes," he continued. "It's very much about how we can collaborate with the chip-makers and the system integrators. What's the most useful thing for us to do? Part of the reason for holding events like this is to get feedback from them about what are the next problems they'd like us to take on."
In a separate interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, SteamOS/Steam Machine designer Kassidy Berger echoed Newell, revealing that Valve is obviously a newbie in the hardware world, and has no plans to compete with the heavy hitters. However, just as Microsoft decided to launch Surface tablets despite what partner OEMs were doing, Valve may one day take the same path.
"Right now we're not planning to bring the prototype to market," she explained. "It doesn't mean we never will, but right now we're really working with third-party hardware to build their own Steam Machines. We think they know their customers and they know hardware better than us right now."
According to Berger, the main audience in the first year of Steam Machines will be the developers wanting to bring their library to the living room. Unfortunately, there's no real way for them to do that really well right now. However, having a consistent operating system helps; they have something to target. Berger also mentioned a review system that will show how a specific title will perform on possible configurations.