Valve has announced that the first Steam consoles will leave the factory on Friday. The systems are going to 300 Steam users selected to participate in the initial beta test. Each of those lucky folks will get to play with not only a custom-built PC running SteamOS, but also a unique controller that has dual touchpads instead of analog sticks. Both components are visible in Valve's pictures from the production line:
Although the hardware is reserved for a select group of users, Valve is casting a much wider net with the software. SteamOS will be available Friday, as well, and it won't be limited to beta participants. Everyone from individual consumers to commercial system builders will be able to download the gaming-centric Linux distro. The OS may have a few rough edges, though. "Unless you're an intrepid Linux hacker already," Valve says, "we're going to recommend that you wait until later in 2014 to try it out."
That's hardly an ominous warning, so don't let it deter you. The relatively limited library of Linux-compatible Steam games is a larger concern. Valve intends to address that issue by streaming Windows games from local PCs. However, in-home streaming doesn't appear to be part of the SteamOS build coming on Friday. Valve says a separate streaming beta is coming soon.