The Steam Machines were first announced back when Valve was looking to get into the operating system market by introducing SteamOS to gamers as an alternative to Windows back in 2013. Well, recently, some reports have surfaced indicating that the Steam Machines were dead, but Valve says it's not true.
Over on a Steam community thread, Valve stated that the reports about the Steam Machines being killed off has been greatly exaggerated. The company stated...
The post explains that the reason the Steam Machines were removed from the main store page had nothing to do with the devices dying, but that the company was doing a "routine cleanup" and the Steam Machine section was removed from the main store navigation. It's noted that the Steam Machine section is still available, just not available from the main menu navigation.
Valve noted that through the Steam Machine initiative, the company learned a lot about the tie-in between software and hardware by including the pre-built machines with the Linux distro featuring SteamOS. Valve has been focused on addressing the shortcomings that the company observed, and have also been investing in making Vulkan a well-supported graphics API alternative to DirectX and what's expected to be a very popular API in the form of DXR.
Valve has also been working on shader pre-caching as an alternative to the standard local machine shader compilation, which will help reduce initial load times and it's designed to reduce overall performance stuttering during the local runtime.
This Vulkan support will help significantly with the compatibility of Linux adoption rates among the average gamer, who may want to experiment with something outside of the Windows 10 ecosystem.
The Steam Machines originally came onto the scene with various price points in pre-built packages from OEMs. They were priced between $450 and $2,000, depending on the kind of system that you wanted. Each system was designed to run most games on minimum or moderate settings on the lower end of the spectrum, while the upper end of the spectrum were designed for 4K gaming and virtual reality.
The issue was that a lot of casual gamers didn't really understand their purposes, and a lot of core gamers had already had their rigs custom built, so the Steam Machines kind of fit into that rare category where they didn't really appeal highly to any specific crowd.
Of course, as Valve notes, despite the Steam Machines not selling all that well, the company did learn a lot and even adapted the Steam Link out of the Steam Machines, the former of which allows you to easily hook the device up to your TV and stream games from your desktop or laptop to your TV. It doesn't sound as if the Steam Machines will be updated anymore anytime soon, but it does sound like, on the software side, Valve hasn't completely given up on the SteamOS or the Vulkan support.