Valve introduced a new operating system called SteamOS this week. It’s a Linux-based operating system designed to bring games and media to the living room. But you need a decent computer to do that.
Enter Steam Machines. Valve says it’s working with hardware partners to deliver a variety of gaming machines in 2014. But to kick things off, Valve is taking applications for folks interested in testing a prototype.
Only 300 units are available, but they’ll be available free to beta testers. You can find more details about how to apply at the Steam Machines website.
Beta testers will be able to talk about their experience and post details online, so we should know more about the performance of these prototypes before the end of the year. The terms of the deal also let users install other operating systems or do whatever else they’d like — although I’m not sure why you’d bother.
The idea is to find folks to help test the performance of SteamOS in the living room using the game-centric operating system, a computer with adequate performance, and a gamepad (although you can also use a keyboard and mouse).
Ultimately Valve doesn’t expect to sell its own computers. Instead the company is working with PC makers to deliver a number of different Steam Machines.
Not all Steam Machines will be created equal. Some will be designed to be small and/or quiet, while others will be designed to be as affordable as possible.
If you don’t feel like buying a new computer next year (or competing to get a free one this year), you’ll be able to continue using the Steam game platform on existing Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.
You’ll also be able to install SteamOS on your own hardware.