This year’s CES wasn’t without its share of highly-awaited revelations. Apart from all the hoopla surrounding wearable devices’ coming of age, 4K displays gaining more traction, cars that drive you, 3D printing, connected homes and more devices waking up to the Internet of Things, there was an unveiling of a different kind. Probably it didn’t grab as many eyeballs as one would’ve thought, situated in a dimly lit Vegas hotel suite, devoid of much razzmatazz, conducted by a speaker not really known for his speaking prowess or charisma that’s expected at big-ticket CES keynotes.
After a lot of hype and expectations, Valve’s Steam Machines finally came out in the open, and one of the first things that struck me was the diversity of Steam boxes on offer, their yet unconfirmed and myriad hardware specifications, all available for purchase at several price ranges – spanning from $500 to a whopping $6000 – depending on your budget. Wait for AMD’s Kaveri APU-based Steam Machines to pop up, and the prices will sink even lower – around the $250 mark. Not bad for a dedicated gaming machine, right? This shows that Valve’s offering something to everyone, letting customers pick and choose their gaming experience. This is an excellent feature of Steam machines, in my opinion. What’s even more exciting is that Steam Machines are re-branded PCs; which means you can say no to all these Steam Boxes, format your Windows PC, install Steam OS (the final build some time in the future), stick a Steam logo on it, and voilà – your trusty gaming rig is now a Steam Machine. And Valve will hold no grudges against you for doing that.
The significance of Gabe Newell’s unveiling of the 13 Steam Machines wasn’t lost from the PC’s perspective. Steam Machines are nothing short of a second coming of the glorious PC that we’ve all grown up using and it stands to affect so many more industries: personal computers, gaming, entertainment, and digital interaction, to name a few.
As things stand, Steam Machines aren’t likely to challenge Microsoft and Sony’s duopoly on the console gaming market anytime soon, not for the next couple of years. That’s alright, I’m in no hurry, and neither is Valve – who like to do things nice and slow. From chip manufacturers like Intel, AMD and NVIDIA to OEMs like Dell, Gigabyte, ZOTAC (and many others) hopping on the Steam Machines bandwagon, it’s clear that the good ol’ PC hasn’t run out of steam just yet.