Valve’s Steam Machine project may be in full swing as they convince OEMs and system builders to jump onto the bandwagon, but the actual units, the fruit of Valve’s hard work, may not be ready until much later in 2014 – some say, possibly not even before September 2014. This is because Valve is still doing prepwork for SteamOS and the Steam client and there are many smaller things (game streaming, for one) that need to be ironed out first before they can sign off on the idea and allow companies to begin selling products under the Steam Machines banner.
The biggest of these issues, at least from what Valve confirms on their store page for the terms and conditions of selling a Steam Machine, is that you have to accept their terms and conditions to selling products with a link to Valve or Steam itself in your advertising and you also need to become an approved license holder to be able to install SteamOS onto your machines before they are sold to gamers. Valve itself explicitly states this in their (very short) frequently asked questions (FAQ) list on the subject.
“What do you need a license for? In very simple terms, you need a license to redistribute our proprietary Steam Client, whether on its own or whether as part of SteamOS, and you need a license to use any of our trademarks in a commercial context,” writes Valve. “That includes, without limitation, using the Steam symbol and terms like Steam, SteamOS and Steam Machine in any of your commercial communication, whether from product design, advertising or PR.”
“And unless you are a licensee, you should not publicly suggest any connection to Valve or Steam.”
In addition to sorting out their legal issues that could arise from computers being shipped with Steam (as well as the fact that it’s free, which would irk Microsoft somewhat) Valve’s biggest problem is making sure that the SteamOS operating system does not violate any parts of the GNU GPL license that is at the heart of the make up of its base OS, Debian Stable. Technically they’re not licensing the OS but rather the Steam client, the only real proprietary code on the system that is added on by Valve itself.
In addition, Valve may just be looking to protect itself from any harm or user backlash and extends this license to merely distributing the Steam client with every computer that you sell. While it is free for users to download and install, the retailers looking to sell these machines legally can’t pre-install the client for you, so Valve has to make provision for this in their Subscriber Agreement.
When will the Steam Machine revolution begin? It is beginning to look like a late 2014 launch, just in time for the holidays, for Valve and its partners.