Valve just showed many different Steam Boxes at CES and people still don't know what to make of them. I think the problem is people's perception of the Steam Box. We just had two major consoles launched, so people are seeing this new machine as a new console, something to compete with Microsoft and Sony. If we go into the history of interviews with Gabe Newell, we find that this really isn't the case.
We remember Gabe calling Windows 8 a "catastrophe." A lot of people thought he was referring strictly to the store, that an OS having a store built in was inherently evil. Really, what he was referring to was how Windows 8 was the first step to a more closed operating system, where users have less input and companies have more control.
“In order for innovation to happen, a bunch of things that aren’t happening on closed platforms need to occur. Valve wouldn’t exist today without the PC, or Epic, or Zynga, or Google. They all wouldn’t have existed without the openness of the platform. There’s a strong temptation to close the platform, because they look at what they can accomplish when they limit the competitors’ access to the platform, and they say ‘That’s really exciting.’”
“We are looking at the platform and saying, ‘We’ve been a free rider, and we’ve been able to benefit from everything that went into PCs and the Internet, and we have to continue to figure out how there will be open platforms.’” -Gabe Newell
Valve wants there to be open platforms for people to create content in freely. They've already done this with Steam by creating a platform that has allowed independent developers to have their games reach the largest possible audience. They continued their philosophy of "[Giving] people the tools to focus on making customers lives better" with Steam Workshop. "...we have people who are using the Steam Workshop who are making $500,000 per year building items for other customers. In other words, there’s this notion that user-generated content has to be an important part of our thinking." "It used to be that you needed a $500-million-a-year company in order to reach a worldwide audience of consumers. Now, all you need is a Steam account." -Gabe Newell
By combining Valve's philosophy with the open-source qualities of Linux, they hope to counter what they perceive to be the real threat, not just to their pocketbooks, but to the nature of computers in the near future. "The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform... I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room?"
That is where the Steam Box comes in.