When the Xi3 Piston modular PC / game console ships this November, it'll ship like most PCs do: without a gamepad. Sadly, the in-house controller from Piston will be sold separately for a separate, undisclosed price. "There will be a future announcement about our plans for controllers," was the most that chief marketing officer David Politis would share during a brief interview this morning. We managed to snap the pic you see above before the controller was whisked away; Politis and co. refused any closer snaps, not to mention a opportunity to go hands-on.
The PC-cum-game-console will launch with "some version" of Windows (the console we saw here was running Windows 7), rather than SteamOS. The only look we've had at Xi3's GUI was brief, during SXSW's gaming expo. And Politis called that brief glimpse "presentation-ware." He said we'll see it running "before we officially ship" in video form at the very least, and it'll run as a Windows-based program on the shipping box. He did speak to how it will work, though. "It'll be customizable ... when [the Piston] is ready to run, you'll be in our GUI. You won't be in an OS per se," Politis told Engadget. "It's connected to the net, so you should be able to access any type of content you already have ownership of or licensing rights to from inside of the GUI. And you're gonna be able to do that. You can start thinking through, 'What do I already own or have license rights to that I can access through the internet?' These are ticking off the different types of things that you and your readers own or have access to." When we specifically noted Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, as well as gaming services like Steam and UPlay, Politis confirmed our (obvious) guesses.
Update: Xi3 told us that the custom GUI will ship with the console in November. Please excuse the confusion!
As for other oblique pieces of the Piston we've yet to hear details on, such as "VR Mode," Politis only offered "stay tuned." He also wouldn't speak to details about his company's involvement with Valve; rather, he wouldn't speak to details beyond what's already announced. "We have not disclosed and we won't go further than that. It was an investment. We were then asked, by Gabe [Newell] personally, to not talk about our relationship. And we have honored that request ever since then. And I'm not gonna talk more about our relationship with Valve," Politis says.
He did have some interesting thoughts on Valve's moves over the last week, and how it could impact his own company's Piston launch:
"We think the market will decide what OS runs on what machines. That's pretty clear. There's a reason why there are so many applications for Windows that are used by consumers and businesses all over. And not as many on Linux platforms. Could that change? It could change! It appears that that's what Valve is trying to do. To change the world. Good for them!"
Xi3 is calling its Piston a "console," and has yet to call its living room PC a "Steam Machine." Politis said that's intentional. "We call it the Piston Console. Our brand is Piston Console," he told us. Whether that "console" will come bundled with SteamOS in the future is anybody's guess -- though we'd venture a "yes" -- and whether it becomes part of Valve's officially recognized "Steam Machines" family is another question altogether. What we know about the Piston Console thus far is that it's very small, it's decently powerful, and it's just shy of two months from going on sale at retail for $1,000. It's place in our homes remains to be seen.