CES 2014: Valve And 13 Launch Partners Unveil Slew of Steam Machines

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 7, 2014 - 02:25 AM |
Tagged: valve, SteamOS, steambox, opinion, Gabe Newell, CES 2014, CES

Valve Co-Founder Gabe Newell took the stage at a press conference in Las Vegas last night to introduce SteamOS powered Steam Machines and the company's hardware partners for the initial 2014 launch. And it has been quite the launch thus far, with as many as 13 companies launching at least one Steambox PC.

The majority of Steam Machines are living room friendly Mini-ITX (or smaller) form factors, but that has not stopped other vendors from going all out with full-tower builds. The 13 hardware partners have all put their own spin on a SteamOS-powered PC, and by the second half of 2014, users will be able to choose from $500 SFF cubes to ~$1000 Mini-ITX builds with dedicated graphics, to powerhouse desktop PCs that have MSRPs up to $6,000 and multiple GPUs. In fact, aside from SteamOS and support for the Steam Controller, the systems do not share much else, offering up unique options–which is a great thing. 

For the curious, the 13 Steam Machine hardware vendors are listed below.

  1. Alienware
  2. Alternate
  3. CyberPowerPC
  4. Digital Storm
  5. Falcon Northwest
  6. Gigabyte
  7. iBuyPower
  8. Materiel.net
  9. Next
  10. Origin PC
  11. Scan Computers
  12. Webhallen
  13. Zotac

As luck would have it for those eager to compare all of the available options, the crew over at Ars Technica have put together a handy table of the currently-known specifications and pricing of each company's Steam Machines! Some interesting takeaways from the chart include the almost even division between AMD and NVIDIA dedicated graphics while Intel has a single hardware win with it's Iris Pro 5200 (Gigabyte BRIX Pro). On the other hand, on the CPU side of things, Intel has the most design wins with AMD having as many as 3 design wins versus Intel's 10 (in the best case scenario). The pricing is also interesting. While there are outliers that offer up very expensive and affordable models, the majority of Steam Machines tend to be closer to the $1000 mark than either the $500 or $2000+ price points. In other words, about the same amount of money for a mid-range DIY PC. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as users are getting decent hardware for their money, a free OS, and OEM warranty/support (and there is nothing stopping the DIYers from making their own Steamboxes).

A SFF Steambox (left) from Zotac and a full-tower SteamOS gaming desktop from Falcon Nothwest (right).

So far, I have to say that I'm more impressed than not with the Steam Machine launch which has gone off better than I had expected. Here's hoping the hardware vendors are able to come through at the announced price points and Valve is able to continue wrangling developer support (and to improve the planned game streaming functionality from a Windows box). If so, I think Valve and it's partners will have a hit on their hands that will help bring PC gaming into the living room and (hopefully) on par (at least) in the mainstream perspective with the ever-popular game consoles (which are now using x86 PC architectures).

What do you think about the upcoming crop of Steam Machines? Does SteamOS have a future? Let us know your thoughts and predictions in the comments below!

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Ars Technica

SteamOS is here ... well more here than Half Life 3 anyways

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2013 - 06:59 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam os, Gabe Newell

Well it is December 13th and as promised you can get your hands on Steam OS, more or less.  We've tried starting the download a few times here at PC Perspective and are running into a few difficulties but maybe you will have better luck.  Click onto this link to head to the SteamDB site and you just might be able to get your hands on Valve's new operating system.  We have been lead to believe it will bear a lot of resemblance to the already familiar Steam Big Picture though as we have yet to get a working image to install on a machine that is hard to verify.  There is a secondary repository you can try as well.

And a new magnet link torrrent just popped up which should help you a lot!  Magnet link for torrent download.

As they state on the page "Valve is having server issues (no wonder), download will probably fail." but you probably expected that anyways.  Of course you will not be able to download a Steam Machine, unless you are one of those lucky so-and-so's who got in on the beta.  Once we have succeeded in installing Gabe's new plaything on a machine you can expect an update but until then why not try it on your own.  No word on if this will support badgers or not.

jFwUu3E.jpg

 

Source: Steam

Gabe Newell LinuxCon Keynote. Announcement Next Week.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2013 - 09:15 PM |
Tagged: Steam Box, LinuxCon, Gabe Newell

Valve Software, as demonstrated a couple of days ago, still believe in Linux as the future of gaming platforms. Gabe Newell discussed this situation at LinuxCon, this morning, which was streamed live over the internet (and I transcribed after the teaser break at the bottom of the article). Someone decided to rip the stream, not the best quality but good enough, and put it on Youtube. I found it and embed it below. Enjoy!

Gabe Newell highlights, from the seventh minute straight through to the end, why proprietary platforms look successful and how they (sooner-or-later) fail by their own design. Simply put, you can control what is on it. Software you do not like, or even their updates, can be stuck in certification or even excluded from the platform entirely. You can limit malicious software, at least to some extent, or even competing products.

Ultimately, however, you limit yourself by not feeding in to the competition of the crowd.

If you wanted to get your cartridge made you bought it, you know, FOB in Tokyo. If you had a competitive product, miraculously, your ROMs didn't show up until, you know, 3 months after the platform holder's product had entered market and stuff like that. And that was really where the dominant models for what was happening in gaming ((came from)).

But, not too surprisingly, open systems were advancing faster than the proprietary systems had. There used to be these completely de novo graphics solutions for gaming consoles and they've all been replaced by PC-derived hardware. The openness of the PC as a hardware standard meant that the rate of innovation was way faster. So even though, you would think, that the console guys would have a huge incentive to invest in it, they were unable to be competitive.

Microsoft attempts to exert control over their platform with modern Windows which is met by a year-over-year regression in PC sales; at the same time, PC gaming is the industry hotbed of innovation and it is booming as a result. In a time of declining sales in PC hardware, Steam saw a 76% growth (unclear but it sounds like revenue) from last year.

Valve really believes the industry will shift toward a model with little divide between creator and consumer. The community has been "an order of magnitude" more productive than the actual staff of Team Fortress 2.

Does Valve want to compete with that?

This will only happen with open platforms. Even the consoles, with systems sold under parts and labor costs to exert control, have learned to embrace the indie developer. The next gen consoles market indie developers, prior to launch, seemingly more than the industry behemoths and that includes their own titles. They open their platforms a little bit but it might still not be enough to hold off the slow and steady advance of PC gaming be it through Windows, Linux, or even web standards.

Speaking of which, Linux and web standards are oft criticized because they are fragmented. Gabe Newell, intentionally or unintentionally, claimed proprietary platforms are more fragmented. Open platforms have multiple bodies push and pull the blob but it all tends to flow in the same direction. Proprietary platforms have lean bodies with control over where they can go, just many of them. You have a dominant and a few competing platforms for each sector: phones and tablets, consoles, desktops, and so forth.

He noted each has a web browser and, because the web is an open standard, is the most unified experience across devices of multiple sectors. Open fragmentation is small compared to the gaps between proprietary silos across sectors. ((As a side note: Windows RT is also designed to be one platform for all platforms but, as we have been saying for a while, you would prefer an open alternative to all RT all the time... and, according to the second and third paragraphs of this editorial, it will probably suffer from all of the same problems inherent to proprietary platforms anyway.))

Everybody just sort of automatically assumes that the internet is going to work regardless of wherever they are. There may be pluses or minuses of their specific environment but nobody says, "Oh I'm in an airplane now, I'm going to use a completely different method of accessing data across a network". We think that should be more broadly true as well. That you don't think of touch input or game controllers or living rooms as being things which require a completely different way for users to interact or acquire assets or developers to program or deliver to those targets.

Obviously if that is the direction you are going in, Linux is the most obvious basis for that and none of the proprietary, closed platforms are going to be able to provide that form of grand unification between mobile, living room, and desktop.

Next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities that we see for bringing Linux into the living room and potentially pointing further down the road to how we can get it even more unified in mobile.

Well, we will certainly be looking forward to next week.

Personally, for almost two years I found it weird how Google, Valve, and Apple (if the longstanding rumors were true) were each pushing for wearable computing, Steam Box/Apple TV/Google TV, and content distribution at the same time. I would not be surprised, in the slightest, for Valve to add media functionality to Steam and Big Picture and secure a spot in the iTunes and Play Store market.

As for how wearables fit in? I could never quite figure that out but it always felt suspicious.

Read on for our transcript of the keynote speech. Bare with us, it is a little bit rough.

Source: LinuxCon

CES 2013: The Verge Interviews Gave Newell for Steam Box. Valve's Director Hints Post-Kepler GPUs Can Be Virtualized!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Networking, Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2013 - 11:11 PM |
Tagged: valve, gaben, Gabe Newell, ces 2013, CES

So the internet has been in a roar about The Steam Box and it probably will eclipse Project Shield as topic of CES 2013. The Verge scored an interview to converse about the hardware future of the company and got more than he asked for.

Gaben.jpg

Now if only he would have discussed potential launch titles.

Wow! That *is* a beautiful knife collection.

The point which stuck with me most throughout the entire interview was directed at Valve’s opinion of gaming on connected screens. Gabe Newell responded,

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 simulateneous [sic] 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.

This is pretty much confirmation, assuming no transcription errors on the part of The Verge, that Maxwell will support the virtualization features of GK110 and bring it mainstream. This also makes NVIDIA Grid make much more sense in the long term. Perhaps NVIDIA will provide some flavor of a Grid server for households directly?

The concept gets me particularly excited. One of the biggest wastes of money the tech industry has is purchasing redundant hardware. Consoles are a perfect example: not only is the system redundant to your other computational device which is usually at worst a $200 GPU away from a completely better experience, you pay for software to be reliant on that redundant platform which will eventually disappear along with said software. In fact, many have multiple redundant consoles because the list of software they desire is not localized to just one system so they need redundant redundancies. Oy!

A gaming server should help make the redundancy argument more obvious. If you need extra interfaces then you should only need to purchase the extra interfaces. Share the number crunching and only keep it up to date.

Also check out the rest of the interview over at The Verge. I decided just to cover a small point with potentially big ramifications.

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: The Verge

Valve and Gabe Newell Confirm Steam Box for Living Room PC Gaming

Subject: General Tech | December 11, 2012 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: valve, steambox, Steam Box, steam, htpc, gaben, Gabe Newell, big picture mode

Well it finally happened this week - Gabe Newell confirmed what we all assumed was going to happen - a Valve software branded and controlled PC for gaming and computing in the living room.  We first started grumbling about the "Steam Box" back in March at GDC when Valve announced the Big Picture Mode for Steam and rumors of the hardware platform first began.   The next moth, Valve's Doug Lombardi denied the rumors but fell short of saying it wouldn't happen in the future.  In September the Big Picture Mode for Steam went into beta bringing the Steam interface into the world of TVs and 10-ft design, followed this year with the full release. 

And let's not forget the Linux client beta currently on-going as well as the capability to buy non-gaming software on Steam.  Valve has been a busy PC company.

valve1.jpg

Big Picture Mode was the first necessary step

Based on an interview with Gabe at Kotaku, there are a surprising amount of details about the hardware goals that Valve will set for the "Steam Box" in addition to the simple confirmation that it is a currently running project. 

He also expects companies to start selling PC packages for living rooms next year—setups that could consist of computers designed to be hooked up to your TV and run Steam right out of the gate.

valve4.jpg

HTPC builders have been making "Steam Box" computers for some time...

Interestingly, Valve is saying its contribution will be more tightly controlled than we might have thought:

"Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment," he said. "If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that's what some people are really gonna want for their living room.

No time tables were discussed and we are left once again with just a hint of what is to come.  I think its pretty obvious based on the direction Valve is going that we are going to see a Linux-based small form factor PC with Steam pre-installed available for consumers in 2013.  If Valve starts pushing Linux support as hard as we expect it could mean quite a bit of trauma is ahead for Microsoft in the enthusiast community, one that is already reeling from the problems with Windows 8.

valve3.jpg

If you were to potentially add to the "Steam Box" a pre-configuration tool like NVIDIA's GeForce Experience that sets game options based on your hardware for you, the PC could easily turn into a solution that is nearly as simple as the console for gamers.  And because Steam is already accepting non-games, it won't take much for there to be Netflix and Amazon apps in addition to anything else you currently have running on HTPCs or tablets. 

Source: Kotaku

Gabe Newell gets Steamed up over piracy discussions

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 20, 2012 - 08:08 PM |
Tagged: valve, piracy, Gabe Newell

Ben Kuchera of Penny Arcade caught an interview with Valve Software’s managing director and co-founder, Gabe Newell. The topics were quite typical for a Gabe Newell interview and involve working at Valve, the future of gaming, and DRM. Gabe also joined the beard club; welcome Gabe!

Gaben.jpg

Photo Credit: Giant Bomb

A little over halfway through the interview, Penny Arcade asked Gabe whether they believe that they sidestepped the problems of used games and piracy with Steam. Gabe instead responded to the premise of the question, rather than the question itself:

You know, I get fairly frustrated when I hear how the issue is framed in a lot of cases. To us it seems pretty obvious that people always want to treat it as a pricing issue, that people are doing this because they can get it for free and so we just need to create these draconian DRM systems or ani-piracy(sic) systems, and that just really doesn’t match up with the data.

This quote echoes a problem I have had with the piracy discussion for quite some time. The main problem with the concept of piracy is that people wish to frame it in a context that seems intuitive to them rather than experiment to discover what actually occurs. Piracy is seen as a problem which must be controlled. This logic is fundamentally flawed because piracy is not itself a problem but rather a measurement of potential problems.

Gabe continues with an anecdote of a discussion between a company who used third-party DRM for their title and himself:

Recently I was in a meeting and there’s a company that had a third party DRM solution and we showed them look, this is what happens, at this point in your life cycle your DRM got hacked, right? Now let’s look at the data, did your sales change at all? No, your sales didn’t change one bit. Right? So here’s before and after, here’s where you have DRM that annoys your customers and causing huge numbers of support calls and in theory you would think that you would see a huge drop off in sales after that got hacked, and instead there was absolutely no difference in sales before or after. You know, and then we tell them you actually probably lost a whole bunch of sales as near as we can tell, here’s how much money you lost by bundling that with your product.

Gabe highlights what a business should actually be concerned with: increasing your measurement of revenue and profits, rather than decreasing your measurement of piracy. You as a company could simply not develop products and completely kill piracy, but that would also entirely kill your revenue as you would have nothing to gain revenue from.

Before we begin to discuss piracy, the very first step is that we need to frame it as what it really is: a measurement. While violating terms of a license agreement is in fact wrong, if you focus your business on what is right or wrong you will go broke.

If you believe that there is value in preventing non-paying users from using your product then you will only hurt yourself (and if SOPA/PIPA taught us anything, innocent adjacent companies). It is possible that the factors which contribute to piracy also contribute to your revenue positively as well as potentially negatively. It is also entirely possible that increased piracy could be a measurement of a much bigger problem: your business practices.

You know, it’s a really bad idea to start off on the assumption that your customers are on the other side of some sort of battle with you. I really don’t think that is either accurate or a really good business strategy ((…)) we’ve run all of these experiments, you know, this has been going on for many years now and we all can look at what the outcomes are and there really isn’t – there are lots of compelling instances where making customers – you know, giving customers a great experience and thinking of ways to create value for them is way more important than making it incredibly hard for the customers to move their products from one machine to another.

Source: Penny Arcade