Valve recently decided to delay its Steam Machine platform until 2015, but that's not stopping hardware partner Alienware from moving ahead with a Windows 8.1 version of its console.
Instead of waiting until next year to launch its console, called Alpha, Alienware is working with Valve to create a custom Windows 8.1 interface that will integrate with Steam's Big Picture mode. In an interview with PCWorld, Frank Azor, general manager of Alienware, said Valve helped modify Big Picture mode so it fits with the console's glowing lights and other design elements. Azor added that the console will support SteamOS when it launches next year.
"We can build our custom [console UI] interface over Windows, but we don't know what Windows 9's going to be," he said. "Are we going to have to redo all that work in Windows 9? That's why we feel that over the long term, SteamOS and the Steam gamepad are going to be the best solution."
Until SteamOS launches, Alienware will sell the Alpha with an Xbox 360 controller instead of Valve's custom Steam controller, with costs beginning at $549. At that price, the Alpha will feature the following specifications:
- Intel Core i3 Haswell processor
- Custom Nvidia Maxwell-based GPU (2GB dedicated GDDR5 memory)
- 500GB SATA 3 HDD
- 4GB of 1600MHz memory
- Dual-band Wireless-AC 1x1 with Bluetooth 4.0
- HDMI-out, HDMI-in (with pass-through), Gigabit Ethernet, optical audio out, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports
Consumers will be able to customize the console to feature Intel's faster Core i5 and i7 processors, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB or 2TB hard drives. Despite previous statements that the console isn't designed to be upgraded, Azor said users can upgrade almost everything except for the custom graphics card, though it won't be as easy to upgrade as Alienware's other systems.
Alienware's decision to use Windows comes after Valve co-founder Gabe Newell called Windows 8 a "catastrophe" and said it would make users "rage quit computing." Despite his disdain for the operating system, however, Steam users made Windows 8 the second most-used OS on the gaming platform in August 2013, less than a year after its release.
Update: Alienware has launched an official website for the Alpha, saying it will launch the console this holiday season.