The Steam Machines are coming! The Steam Machines are coming!
Everyone seems to have an opinion on how Valve's sort-of push into the console market is either going to enter the scene with a bang or a whimper. What most seem unable to understand, however, is that Valve isn't really trying to compete with the Big 3 at all. That's not their goal with their Steam Machine push.
The secret is, Valve doesn't care about console gaming. They never have. Valve is using the Machines as a way to trick people into the world of PC gaming, plain and simple. It's their way of transitioning the public mindset- pc gaming doesn't mean sitting in front of your PC or laptop, now you can relax in your living room, just like you can with a console. It's a smart move, and while gamers and console makers alike may have their concerns, they're mostly unwarranted. This is because the Steam Machines have a huge uphill battle ahead of them.
That battle can be easily summed up with one single question: who are they for?
Console owners aren't PC gamers because they don't like the idea of having to spend hundreds of dollars every 2-3 years to keep up with the demands of the format. PC gamers don't use consoles because they prefer open systems that are flexible, and that allow them to do what they want on their own terms. Regardless of preferences, in both instances, the user base already have everything they need. Console gamers have their consoles, and PC gamers have their PC. So the matter still remains of just who would be interested in any of the Steam Machines.
If Valve is able to answer this question, they may just be able to pull their trick off. The problem is that it's going to take time and years of research before they have the resources and know-how to do so. The first two generations of Steams Machines are going to be experiments at best, not game-changers.
For those thinking Valve is going to change the gaming landscape in as little as 2-4 years, think again. Maybe ten years from now things will look substantially different thanks to their efforts, but for now it's still business as usual.