Valve is a company that does not see a need for immediate return in investment(smart business). Valve's hardware platform isn't for selling hardware as much as it is for bringing the SteamOS and the corresponding digital distribution platform to the console gamer. Valve also isn't the sole company releasing Steam Machines. As you mentioned the Xi3 Piston is another company that is releasing such a device and other companies will as well. Valve has stated that the problem with consoles is they try to have this one size fits all ideology. This idea of one size fits all doesn't work because different consumers value different things. From what I have read of there announcements it seems they are more interested in developing a great living room OS and having a great hardware vetting process(what Microsoft lacks for their OS and why it has had numerous performance problems and why people seem to think Apple has a better product). That being said I believe the end goal for valve is to broaden their reach to customers as well as bring game devs closer to their market. This will pair well with a hardware vetting process that allows Valve certified to machines for different types of use. Add in new software technologies like Nvidia's geforce experience which auto sets graphic levels and updates drivers and there is a lot that is possible now that wasn't before. As far as cost goes no one can hold a candle to Valves pricing for sales so cost of hardware won't be as big of an obstacle as one might think. Before saying Valve is making a big mistake with not releasing any exclusives (which wouldn't effect their PC market because they would still launch on steam) realize Valve is probably looking at a similar time frame for what it took steam to gain traction. They are aware of the growing pains but also understand how vital they are to a successful product.