The second of Valve Software's promised three announcements this week is the logical follow-up to the first: living room PCs to run the company's upcoming Steam OS. This is not particularly new information--Valve has publicly stated that it has been working with a dozen or so hardware companies to develop computers for living room gaming. Valve co-founder Gabe Newell was at CES and E3 this year to meet with those OEMs, including companies like Xi3, which showed off its Piston box in January.
What's new, then is Valve's announcement that it is making its own "high-performance" prototype, which it will be putting in the hands of only 300 lucky testers by the end of this year--talk about a golden ticket. There are no other spec details for this prototype box, but Valve says it will be "upgradeable and open". There's no reason to believe that Valve is using proprietary hardware here that would make it functionally any different from a Linux box you could build yourself--especially with Nvidia's recent renewed commitment to development Linux drivers for its video cards.
Specs for Valve's Steam Machines program may not be one rigid set of requirements, as Newell has said that the company is targeting different classes of Steam Machines for different use cases. In an interview with The Verge at CES, Newell mentioned a Good-Better-Best structure for hardware, where the baseline would be low-cost machines that could perform video streaming but not have dedicated GPUs. In that interview, Newell indicated that the "best" class of machine would target high performance with quiet acoustics and a living-room appropriate form factor. Partner OEM Steam Machine boxes are anticipated to go on sale next year.
Valve's final announcement this week will come on Friday at 10am PST.