So this is something that has got me very excited recently. Valve, a huge name in pc gaming, have announced the steambox consoles, steam OS and the new controller.
Steamboxes are essentially gaming pcs in console form factors, however the big difference is that they come in a range of prices and performance, and that you are free to customise them how you want. Upgrading hardware should be as easy as with a desktop gaming pc.
To go with this potentially revolutionary hardware offering, Valve is also designing Steam OS, an operating system, based on Linux, that will be optimised for gaming. This will also be open for customisability, and will be available for pc builders to use in their builds too. This is great news for those looking for an alternative to windows, but are worried that linux won’t support many of their games, because, if steam os is successful, it should herald more comparability of games with linux, since people will be running their whole steam library from it on their steamboxes.
Steam OS could also provide better performance than windows, for gaming since it would be optimised for gaming, resulting in higher frame rates and more graphical features being squeezed out of the hardware within.
Finally, there is the new steam controller, which valve designed to bridge the gap between the mouse and keyboard, and a console gamepad, whilst being suitable for a range of game types. The controller has a gamepad style, however the analogue sticks have been replaced by large touch sensors, which are supposed to give the precision control available in a mouse and keyboard setup. The buttons and ergonomics have also been changed somewhat, which valve say will provide a more comfortable experience.
Some people have voiced opinions that they don’t think it will be very usable from pictures they have seen and the new touchpads, however I personally think it is a good idea. There is a noticeable difference between playing with controllers compared to keyboard and mouse, which I think this could do well to bridge. Valve also said that they will encourage users to upload and share their own personal configurations for key layouts, for different games, and the most popular will get voted to the top. This would allow users to choose the best controller layout depending on what specific game they are playing, again helping to make the controller work well with a variety of game types and styles.
More details: http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/SteamMachines/