Xi3, the hardware manufacturer behind the grapefruit-sized $1,000 Piston PC, has said it was asked to specifically build a product by Valve amid growing confusion about the relationship between the two companies.
"We were asked to build a product specifically for Valve, and both companies showcased this product," said Xi3 boss Jason A. Sullivan to Eurogamer.
The Piston was announced by Xi3 at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2013. A press release was issued saying Valve had invested in the company, and the machine was being displayed at Valve's booth during the trade show.
While Valve is working on a Steam Box of its own, the company has always maintained that third-party Steam Boxes, such as the Piston, will also be in development. Prototypes for Valve's official Steam Box should be available in the next few months.
When Xi3 announced it was taking preorders for its tiny PC, however, Valve head of marketing Doug Lombardi clarified that Valve no longer has any involvement with the company. "Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year," he said, "but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs."
It had not been made public why Valve backed away from Xi3, but Sullivan has further explained Xi3's position. "During a meeting with Valve at CES, Gabe Newell personally asked me that we not disclose additional information about our relationship with Valve. We have honored that request and will continue to do so. That said, there are other items we need to cover," he said.
"For example, the assumption of many in the media has been that Piston is the 'official' Steam Box. We've never said that and neither has Valve. That hasn't changed. But just because Valve may not 'currently' have any 'involvement with any product of (ours)' doesn't mean that such involvement won't exist in the future."
Sullivan also confirmed that the Piston will ship with the Windows operating system--Valve's official Steam Box is believed to be launching with Linux. "Contrary to Valve's vision, Xi3 believes that the way to take this to market today is to do so with a Windows OS at the core, coupled with the ability to not just get to one platform/store for games, but to get access to all game stores/platforms. Studios should have the option to go through Steam if they choose or to go direct to the end-user if they so choose. That will be the difference between Piston and other Steam Boxes. You'll be able to access Steam if you choose, but you'll also be able to access other platforms as well--all through the Piston Console."
"In closing, what Valve does or doesn't do with its Steam Box will be up to them. So Gabe, it's up to you. The ball is in your court," concluded Sullivan.