Valve will launch its own console
So I have been sitting on this idea for a while, and every time I mention it, people seem to be shocked at the implications. I know I'm not the first to say so, but I seriously think that Valve is working towards an end-goal of a linux-based console running a Steam OS. Perhaps not an actual Steam OS, but a customized operating system that boots directly to Steam in the same guise as a Firefox OS. It only takes someone with the ability to see a trajectory to see where they are going, and with the recent news from ars technica about them going after some hardware, it puts their point on that trajectory further down the path than I had thought.
How the trajectory works.
When someone makes games, they usually try to make as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. This is the position of Electronic Arts, EA, and it's a good one from a business standpoint. Where it falters is in quality of the games and quantity of fans. Valve just wanted to make good games, and being a private company, they can afford the luxury of saying, "we made enough money" and not try to cram everything down everyone's throats to appease stockholders. They were the little company sitting on the sidelines, giving away free modifications and expansions to their games to increase longevity in them. They wound up with so many interconnected games, expansions, and modifications that they needed a platform to organize everything. So they had to vent off pressure, release the valve a little and let off some steam.
When Steam was first released as a play on steam valve, people hated it. It was a complete mess, but Valve released the product early to get feedback and improve its quality. This was a classic situation where the users are the testers. Valve improved their product so it ran its games nicely, but they had forethought. The team building Valve had enough vision to dare think other software vendors could release products on their steam platform, so they started to slowly allow it. After a few years, most software vendors use steam to release their products, and Valve wanted to expand.
The team at Valve seem to have always been tinkering with the notion of being a cross-platform gaming service before porting Steam to OSX. Oh, Valve loved geology. I imagine it appealed to their meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes really, pressure, and time. That, and a big goddamn poster. Valve's poster was lifted when Microsoft revealed its intentions with Windows 8 and their "Metro", err... "Modern UI Style" and the entire video game development community screamed. Valve didn't take nicely to the disservice and started looking at options, so they found a nice pet penguin to play with.
Many people in the gaming world have wondered for years why there hasn't been a push for gaming on Linux, and apparently that hadn't slipped by Valve's minds either. Servers are dominated by Linux as their operating system, and gaming servers aren't all that much special to not run on them since they can easily be run headless (sometimes, Linux servers prefer running around like a terminal chicken). After doing some server work for hosting their multiplayer games, Valve started openly playing with the idea of porting their stuff to Linux. They began with their OSX client because OSX is a derivative of BSD, a Unix system, and attempted to port it over to the Linux distribution Ubuntu since Linux is Unix-like and the migration should be simpler than porting the windows client or writing a new client from scratch. They immediately saw wild success in a ridiculously short time and I don't see that stopping, instead accelerating them along the trajectory. The reason to even bother with Linux in the first place is because it's an open-source operating system. There aren't any major licensing rights, and none for many distributions so they don't have to kowtow to any other company like Microsoft, Sony, Apple, or Nintendo. Now this is where things start to look hard.
The next step after developing an ecosystem that everybody uses on a system that's not restricted by another company is to further open up the floodgates and invest in your own hardware. Valve has had a problem with console makers putting all sorts of restrictions on their games. From demanding they charge for small additions they want to give away, to forcing bug fixes to lag far behind the inertia of gameplay in the pipeline, and nearly condemning that game to death from stagnation. This is why Valve tends to stay off the consoles. If they could have the freedom of pc gaming, but in a console environment, then they would have the best of both worlds. This is why the next logical step from making a universal platform free of restrictions is to tilt-shift and expand to hardware, but don't take my word on it.
Hindsight from this vantage point makes it clear why development on Linux is key. If they were to try to move Steam to a Windows system, Microsoft would do two things; first, require it be on their platform, Xbox or Live, and, second, that they completely gut their system so it's nothing like their marketplace. If they went with the OSX system, then they'd be required to drop steam and use Apple's Mac Store that they're requiring everything to go through. Sony's basically a lost cause at this point due to their horrible public image in the last few years. Nintendo's focus has been on casual gaming for years, which is completely counter to what Valve's focus is. Linux is the only solution, so in order to stretch, they need their own hardware running a Linux system. Valve will launch its own console at some point in the future just to stay alive. In the business world, in order to survive, you must adapt and grow; if you aren't doing both, then you will die. Microsoft was on the verge of stagnation, and then produced the Xbox, and then leveled off again. Sega has completely collapsed after they removed themselves from the hardware market, and now play second fiddle to Harvey the Rabbit. Apple isn't adapting, nor growing, but fighting both with litigation and monopolies. I haven't a clue as to why the company is valued so high, but the trend won't last forever. I'd bank on Valve releasing their own console, and if they just want to be sadistic about the whole thing, then they'll release Half-Life 2: Episode 3 and tie it into Half-Life 3, crank out Portal 3, Team Fortress 3, and Defense of the Ancients 3 just to make fun at the inability of Valve to have a game with a 3 in the title, and for kicks, name the console Valv3.