The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 12
The reports surrounding Valve's hardware plans have been sketchy at best and plagued by misleading headlines at almost every turn. The tale of Valve's presence at this years CES reads like a cryptic mystery novel where nothing is certain and everyone has a different story they want to tell. More importantly, the unofficial industry adopted phrase for Valve's expected hardware debut "Steambox/Steam Box" was thrown around by more than one publication in the same sentence as Xi3's Piston small form factor PCs. The result is a bunch of people that seem entirely misinformed when I browse the comments sections of related articles. My goal is hopefully to clarify the current situation for those who were.
Believe it or not, the image above is not an image of Valve's Steam Box. Nor is it an image of a prototype for Valve's Steam Box. Don't be ashamed if you came away from the coverage of CES with that impression though, no one did a particularly spectacular job of reporting on Valve's activities there this year. The image is actually Xi3's Valve funded, Steam optimized PC the Piston. Don't listen to the people who tell you it will be priced at around $1000 either. Although Xi3 did let slip that the Piston is based on their higher end offerings nobody knows anything other than what it looks like at this point, and it is most certainly not the rumored Steam Box.
There's a lot of information out there, and it can be hard to sift through. Ignore the fact that CNET said "the Piston - and any other Steam Box". Ignore the fact that Polygon also wrongly reported the Piston as "the 'Steam Box, modular computer announced by hardware maker Xi3 and Valve at CES". Ignore the fact that Engadget posted a whole slew of images along with an article claiming they were allowed "eyes on" time with Valve's Steam Box prototypes, and that they reported these as Valve's products at all. None of that is true, unfortunately.
At present the Steam Box doesn't exist in a form that any of us are familiar with. No one outside Valve has seen it that we know of - why would they show around what is essentially a small PC anyways - nor have any prototypes been officially acknowledge by Valve as the device they internally call "Bigfoot". In his interview with Polygon, who ironically reported that the Xi3 was the Steam Box not long before, Gabe Newell is quoted as having said, "we'll come out with our own and we'll sell it to consumers by ourselves." That's a pretty definitive statement that should have closed the book on most of this nonsense before it even started, and yet no retractions or corrections have been issued and this misinformation has likely become fact for a good number of people.
What is more surprising is that many publications, like Polygon, didn't pickup on things they themselves reported. Right now what we know is that the items displayed in Valve's booth at CES are nothing more than Valve partnered hardware solutions, something that the company has already suggested they were looking into. We also know that they are working on something, the device they refer to as Bigfoot and that public has called Steam Box for the past year or so. Beyond that, no one who is talking to the public knows anything. When Valve gets around to actually releasing a product themselves you can be sure that Gabe and company will let us know; that time hasn't come yet though, so ignore the people talking about the CES items as Steam Boxes. I hope this has helped shed some light on the situation for those who were confused and encourage you to do your own digging instead of simply taking my word for it.