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Update Lots of hardware in a small cube, but Valve wants little to do with it
Update (3/12): Going by name, one would assume the Xi3 was backed by Valve. Turns out, this isn't the case, as the developer has distanced themselves from the unofficial Steam Box. Valve's very own Doug Lombardi has said as much:
"Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year, but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs."
So there you have it, the unofficial Steam Box is most definitely unofficial.
During CES, a number of hardware prototypes were shown off by Valve. All received the "Steam Box" moniker, and one of them, the Xi3 Piston, showed the most promise namely because Xi3 already has some products available. Now, that Piston can be added to the group as Xi3 has officially priced it at $999.99 and is now taking pre-orders.
This unofficial Steam Box is designed to sit under your TV and run Steam's Big Picture mode. Xi3's Piston is small enough to fit in your hand, so it should be just barely noticeable running games in your living room. It's $999.99 starting price includes an AMD A10 quad-core processor at 3.2GHz, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, while a 256GB SSD bumps the price to $1,399.99 and a 512GB one to $1,749.99.
Anyone who pre-orders before March 18 can knock $100 off the final price and receive the Piston during the "2013 holiday season." If you're planning to wait until Valve gets its own Steam Box out, prototypes should be ready before long. In the meantime, there's the third-party offering from Xi3.
It looks like the rumors of Valve entering the hardware business are true, as a new job listing at the studio openly discusses computer hardware.
The Industrial Designer position at Valve is looking for someone with at least six years experience in "shipping world-class, high-tech hardware products." The person must be capable with 2D and 3D design software, as well as possessing a knowledge of design principles. If that doesn't say Valve is entering the hardware business, then nothing will.
Part of the Industrial Designer position states:
Valve is traditionally a software company. Open platforms like the PC and Mac are important to us, as they enable us and our partners to have a robust and direct relationship with customers. We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in. Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.
Those are some pretty bold words from Valve, but then again the studio and its boss, Gabe Newell, have never been one to keep quiet. Exactly what the company is planning is anyone's guess, but the keyboard and mouse mention could mean a new input device is on the horizon. We have already seen Valve experiment with the Razer Hydra motion tracking controller, so perhaps there will be an expansion on that or something else entirely. We just have to wait and see what happens.
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