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Earlier this week Valve made the first of three big announcements being teased on its website with the introduction of SteamOS: a Linux-based, open and freely licensable operating system that will run any number of devices and deliver the Steam experience in the living room. Today the company announced the second part of the puzzle with the launch of a hardware beta program for “Steam Machines” that will run the operating system:

Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world. We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS.

Valve has designed a “high-performance prototype” and it will ship 300 of the boxes to Steam users for free in order to test the platform:

While these products are still in development, we need your help. As always, we believe the best way to ensure that the right products are getting made is to let people try them out and then make changes as we go. We have designed a high-performance prototype that’s optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam. Of course, it’s also completely upgradable and open.

The company is accepting sign-ups for the beta program until October 25. Here’s how to apply:

THE HARDWARE BETA ELIGIBILITY QUEST:

Before October 25, log in to Steam and then visit your quest page to track your current status towards beta test eligibility

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

With SteamOS, it’s not just games. Valve could quickly be on its way to making a full fledged Apple TV competitor with the Steam Machines it will begin testing for an expected 2014 launch. The company noted that its SteamOS operating system will also include features for other content such as music, TV shows, and movies, and Valve is already in discussions with various media companies to make that happen.

Valve’s Gabe Newell expressed previously that the biggest threat to the new platform would be if Apple made a major move into the living room with a revamped Apple TV.

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