This is Alienware's Steam Machine in every way except technically: It won't ship with a Steam controller and it won't ship with SteamOS. These are the two things that make a Steam Machine, according to Valve.
"It's absolutely Steam-ready," Alienware Global Marketing Director Bryan de Zayas told Joystiq on the E3 show floor. "It's not that we're bypassing Steam. It's critical. They have the majority of the digital downloads."
Alienware Steam Machine
"They're fully supportive. Funny enough, we have Valve sitting back there in our meetings. We've been working with Valve for the past two years on this living room initiative. We fully support – they didn't feel the OS and the controller were ready, so they pushed it. Fully support them."
Users of Alienware Alpha will be able to slightly customize their launch processes.
"It's Windows-based," de Zayas said. "The customer, unless they want to, they will not need to interact with Windows 8.1. So they don't need to go into Metro, they don't need to go into they desktop. They can go straight from boot, straight into a custom UI. If they want to even bypass the custom UI after first boot, they can go straight to Big Picture Mode."
Alienware Alpha's description says users will be able to "easily" navigate Windows 8.1 with a controller.