The company isn't going to wait for Valve's OS to be ready.
Earlier this year, the news was flooded with announcements of Steam Machines from various manufacturers. The premise is that these diminutive PCs would sit in the living room and run Valve's custom Linux-based operating system and work with the currently-prototyped Steam controller. Now that Steam OS has been consumed into Valve-Time and delayed until 2015, most of these Steam Machines are left in limbo. Instead of waiting, Alienware will still ship its machine in time for the holiday buying season by using Windows and an Xbox 360 controller instead.
Dubbed "Alpha", the PC still qualifies as a Steam Machine, and users can load Steam onto it (even the SteamOS beta, if they dare), but it will come equipped with Windows 8.1 instead. To make the machine usable in the living room, it's shipping with its own homebrewed graphical user interface, which Alienware hasn't revealed yet. Shipping later this year, the $549 price tag was a bit more than anticipated, and presumably the licensing costs of Windows play a part in that.
The Alpha will ship with an Intel Core i3 Haswell CPU, 4GB of DDR3 memory, a 500GB hard drive, and a custom-built NVIDIA GPU with 2GB of dedicated memory. It'll also support dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, 4K support, and an HDMI pass-through. Of course, those are just the base specs, and users can custom-configure them much higher if they have the cash.
Even with the delay, it seems that Alienware isn't too upset. As executive director Frank Azor told Venture Beat, "I appreciate [Valve's] fortitude in delaying the product until it is perfect. How many times do we see companies come out with something that is half-baked and get it right by version two or three. We view this as excellent news, not bad news."
Source: Venture Beat