Citing "multiple sources familiar with the matter", Ars Technica reports that Valve is working on an "all-in-one PC with gamepad controls and a touchscreen". Sounds familiar to you? It should as this has been exactly what indie hardware manufacturers (yes it's a thing) have launched like the AYA NEO and GPD Win 3. Though niche, the popularity of such devices has interested bigger players to investigate a handheld gaming PC of their own though concepts (Alienware and Lenovo) or patents (Tencent) recently.
If Ars Technica's report is to be taken seriously (the reporter writes that he "can confirm the device's existence and development"), Valve might be the latest company to jump on this hype train. It's not just this report that points to the company's handheld gaming PC ambitions. Earlier this month during a panel conversation at a New Zealand school, Valve's Gabe Newell had a vague answer when asked by a student about whether Steam be porting any games on consoles. "You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year," Newell said. "... and it won't be the answer you expect. You'll say, 'Ah-ha! Now I get what he was talking about.'"
In another instance, SteamDB creator Pavel Djundik, noticed new changes to Steam's code this week. These pointed to a device named "SteamPal" and its "SteamPal Games", as well as a "quick access menu" and a "power menu". These changes led the developer to wonder whether Valve is making a handheld Steam console.
But Ars Technica's unnamed sources apparently provided more details. This "SteamPal" device has allegedly been in development "for some time" and is still in the prototype phase, where at least one "is quite wide compared to the Nintendo Switch" to accommodate for the controller hardware, joysticks and "at least one thumb-sized touchpad". It will run on Linux, have a touchscreen display, no detachable controllers and no physical keyboard (think AYA NEO); at least that's the state of the prototype version.
The report compares the "SteamPal" to a Nintendo Switch as it will apparently include a dock option via its USB-C port. But unlike the Switch, the device will not use an SoC from Nvidia but instead one from Intel or AMD. There's no indication if Valve will release multiple versions of the device with different specs to attend to different preferences. While Ars Technica doesn't provide an indication of the device's cost, it does mention that Valve plans to launch the handheld by the end of this year, "supply chain willing".
On top of taking these news with a grain of salt, we should keep our expectations in check since Valve is no stranger to pulling the plug on its hardware (or software) projects. That said, would you be interested in a Valve-made handheld gaming PC?