Those wishing to get in on the SteamOS environment early will be glad to hear Valve announcing their next step in the process towards final release- Steam Machines. What was once code-named Steam Box is now Steam Machine, and the prototype is coming up quick. While Valve will be working with a wide variety of manufacturers in the near future to deliver Steam Machines of all kinds, the first wave comes in prototype form, manufactured by Valve itself.
Valve's prototype will be appearing with a "high-performance" build made to hit the three key points the company hopes to drive home, including optimization for gaming, for the living room, and of course for Steam itself. These prototypes will be sent out for testing purposes, and for the community to interact on a wide open scale.
Of course, true to Valve's intent with this free and open operating system, the Valve-made prototype Steam Machine will be "completely upgradeable and open." The first wave will be distributed to 300 users for free. The ability to become one of these 300 is done through Valve's Eligibility Quest. Users will need to accomplish five steps to become part of this pool:
1. Join the Steam Universe community group
2. Agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions
3. Make 10 Steam friends (if you haven't already)
4. Create a public Steam Community profile (if you haven't already)
5. Play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode
Valve is clearly aiming to get a lot of people interested in the program well before SteamOS launches - and to get a bit of extra play on gamepad/Big Picture mode while they're at it. While a small group (30 or less) of users will be pre-selected based on past accomplishments - past community contributions, beta work, things like that - the rest will be chosen from the pool that forms with the steps above.