So. The Verge has got a pretty interesting story, one they've pieced together from a number of "sources," which makes us a little skeptical. At the same time, what they're saying makes perfect sense, so let's entertain this notion for now: Valve could be entering the gaming hardware market.
They make a compelling case. This notion was first brought to our attention in Penny Arcade's recent interview with Valve boss Gabe Newell, during which the topic of gaming hardware was explored at length. "If we have to sell hardware we will," Newell said. "We think that we need to continue to have innovation and if the only way to get these kind of projects started is by us going and developing and selling the hardware directly then that’s what we’ll do."
Hm. Anyway, The Verge's sources claim that Valve has actually been working for quite some time on the tentatively titled "Steam Box," an open PC gaming platform for living room use with a clear life cycle, no required dev kit, and no licensing fees for developers. It's rumored to contain a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU. Steam would be the backbone, but it would also allow competing services—like EA's Origin—to be booted up.
It would be compatible with a variety of USB input devices, but would also come with a proprietary controller with swappable input options (a patent for which Valve has already filed). Valve's biometrics systems—by which the hardware uses special peripherals (possibly built into the controller) to analyze players' emotions—could be a big factor here as well.
Rumor has it the "Steam Box" would compete not only with gaming consoles, but with web TV platforms like Apple TV as well. Valve's open system would certainly place the Box a step ahead of Apple and their competitors' closed hardware.
Valve is likely working on this with a variety of partners, if they are indeed working on it at all. It sounds fantastic on paper, but it seems at this stage like it may be difficult for them to communicate the platform's value to non-hardcore gaming consumers. Apple, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo don't really have that problem.
In any case, the author of the post, Josh Topolsky, has apparently seen even more than what he's able to reveal at this time. Is the hardware market ready for another big competitor? What else would you like a "Steam Box" to do? Your laundry? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.