While Valve has said that it does not want to get directly into the hardware business unless it has to, that might not be the entire situation. Rumors indicate that Valve is hard at work developing a Steam Box, which is a Steam platform for a unified console.
While this approach has been tried before with one company developing the software and then licensing the hardware technology, it has only been semi-successful in the past. It is believed, however, that Valve is looking for hardware partners to take the Steam Box design and market it as a total solution. If the whispers we hear are correct, Alienware already has a Steam Box which it is calling the X51; this will offer the Valve software once it is available.
The box is said to be based around the Intel i7 processor with Nvidia graphics and 8GB of RAM. It will run any PC title and support additional digital distribution services like Origin from EA. Once in place, it will run any PC title.
Expect an official announcement at either GDC or E3 when Valve will tell us more. Right now, it is interesting but hard to say what the market really is for such a device and what kind of adoption rate it could really attract. Stay tuned and see where this goes; it could really get PC gaming moving in the right direction to more developers and help create more titles if successful.