Beginning in 2014, there will be multiple SteamOS machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers.
I'm pretty happy with my PC Gaming setup, do I have to buy a new piece of hardware now?
No. Everything that we've been doing on Steam for the last 10 years will continue to move forward.
If you guys are delivering an OS to hardware manufacturers, why is Valve also making its own box?
We're conducting a beta of the overall Steam living-room experience, so we needed to build prototype hardware on which to run tests. At Valve we always rely on real-world testing as part of our design process. The specific machine we're testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware. Other boxes will optimize for size, price, quietness, or other factors.
How will you choose the 300 beta participants?
A small number of users (30 or less) will be chosen based on their past community contributions and beta participation. The remainder will be chosen at random from the eligible pool.
Should I create lots of Steam accounts to increase my chances of getting selected?
No, that won't work.
What are the specs of the Valve prototype?
We'll tell you more about it soon. Remember, there will ultimately be several boxes to choose from, with an array of specifications, price, and performance.
Where's a picture of it? How big is it?
We promise we'll tell you more about it soon.
When will the prototypes ship?
Will beta testers be allowed to share info about their experience and post pictures and opinions online?
Yes, that really is the whole point. The input from testers should come in many forms: bug reports, forum posts, concept art, 3D prints, haikus, and also very publicly stated opinions.
Will I be able to build my own box to run SteamOS?
Can I hack this box? Run another OS? Change the hardware? Install my own software? Use it to build a robot?
Can I download the OS to try it out?
You will be able to download it (including the source code, if you're into that) but not yet.