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May 26, 2021

👋 Good morning! A bustling day — give yourself time to dig into these developments. But first!

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Valve's portable gaming PC
steam controller

Ok forget Netflix as the Netflix of gaming: it might well be Valve. The owner of Steam, the maker of Half-Life, Portal, and the Valve Index VR headset, and the quite less-good Steam Machine, is making a “Nintendo Switch-like portable gaming PC.”

So says the report from Ars Technica, which tracked a “SteamPal,” a new device with an uncertain official name: 

  • Ars says it’s “an all-in-one PC with gamepad controls and a touchscreen. In other words, it looks and functions like a Nintendo Switch (albeit without removable “Joy-Con” controller functionality).”
  • And helpfully, it backs up what Valve co-founder Gabe Newell said earlier this month when answering a question about a future console by hinting, “You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year… and it won’t be the answer you expect. You’ll say, ‘Ah-ha! Now I get what he was talking about.'”
  • Unhappily for Newell, perhaps, we might have a better idea right now.

Specs and details – more quotes

  • “SteamPal will [have] a system on a chip likely coming from either Intel or AMD, not Nvidia.”
  • “It’s unclear whether Valve will release multiple SKUs to offer customers a choice of power level, battery life, and other specs, as other Switch-like PCs have offered over the past year.”
  • “At least one SteamPal prototype version is quite wide compared to the Nintendo Switch. This extra width accommodates a slew of control options. No, Valve is likely not slapping an entire QWERTY keyboard onto its system, but the company has built a standard array of gamepad buttons, triggers, and analog sticks, along with at least one thumb-sized touchpad (in addition to the device’s touch-sensitive screen). 

Intensely interesting:

  • Valve working on a new bit of hardware is pretty exciting. It did struggle with the Steam Machine but the $999 Valve Index was a far better piece of equipment.
  • A portable PC doesn’t exactly take on Nintendo directly, either. There’s room for both. 
  • And Nintendo has the Apple-like approach where the Switch hardware is locked down, limited in many ways, and fairly low power. But the device can handle high-end titles even though it’s only $299, and just $199 for the Switch Lite.
  • And the fairly cheap price is because Nintendo sells games at solid prices and never ever wavers on those prices. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been out for four years and is still just about $50.
  • In any case, it won’t be a first for a PC. Chinese manufacturers including GPD and Aya have already built devices with pricing starting for the GPD Win 3 at around $1,129, with higher-end models sporting either Intel Tiger Lake or AMD Ryzen 4000-series processors.
  • The real intrigue though, is if Valve can do something with Steam, to offer a Netflix of gaming approach. A Game Pass competitor, on a handheld PC, would be hard to beat.

🎉 Google has launched its third major operating system: Fuchsia OS. This could be a major deal: it’s a completely new, non-Linux-but-still open-source OS. It just happens to fairly inconsequentially launch on the original Nest Hub, where it’s basically unrecognisable. But that feels intentional: Google has been slowly, slowly testing this out. Here’s what Fuchsia is, in case you thought it’d never make it out of Google testing over the past few years (Android Authority).

👉 We talk with Carl Pei about Nothing’s new Community and the boring tech industry. On not wanting to buy anything recently: “It feels like every generation is just a slight upgrade from the previous one, so I don’t know. Really, I haven’t seen anything I’ve wanted to buy recently.” Not sure I quite agree given foldables (Android Authority).

🤭 OnePlus accidentally confirmed Nord 2 name on its website (Android Authority).

🚄 These are the just-announced latest Arm Cortex CPUs: Cortex-X2, A710, and A510 deep dive (Android Authority).

👉 And these are the Arm GPUs you’ll see in 2022’s smartphones, TV boxes, and more: Mali-G710 being the flagship GPU. Not in Samsung’s flagship mobile chipsets though, with the new AMD collab… (Android Authority).

🔌 USB-C has a new USB-C Release 2.1 spec, and it’s going to take power supply way up: from 100W to 240W, enough to power beefier laptops (The Verge).

🔜 Satya Nadella says Microsoft is working on the next generation of Windows, more information “soon”. All this just a week after Windows 10X was killed off (Engadget).

🍎 24-inch M1 iMac teardown finds… not that much inside, actually — remarkable (Ars Technica).

🍏 Apple employees are going public about workplace issues — and there’s no going back (The Verge).

⚖️ Amazon accused of illegally raising prices in antitrust lawsuit (Engadget).

🚗 Tesla announces transition to ‘Tesla Vision’ without front-facing radar in new Model 3 and Model Y cars, warns of limitations at first as updates roll out.

🌑 There’s a lunar eclipse and supermoon tonight… though it’s mostly visible in the continental west of North America, but Australia and New Zealand will get a full view, while the rest of us might only get a peek (DW).

🤔 “What’s a free resource available to everyone that most people don’t know about or take advantage of?” (r/askreddit).

Wednesday Weirdness
Juno gif

Clyde’s Spot on Jupiter is starting to look pretty weird, writes Gizmodo, as an already weird area of the biggest planet in our solar system gets more violent. Also, read on for an unusually unique set of circumstances!

  • The stormy feature was first detected by Clyde Foster, director of the Shallow Sky section of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa, on May 31, 2020 — spotting the spot using his own 14-inch telescope. 
  • And of all the possible coincidences out there, two days later, NASA’s Juno probe made a close-up approach, for a view of the rival to the Great Red Spot.
  • While stormy outbreaks like this one come and go, Clyde’s Spot has whirled up furiously, and has gone from a smudge to something more fearsome, and it may just stick around for a lot longer.
  • NASA points out in a statement: this feature is “twice as big in latitude and three times as big in longitude as the original spot, and has the potential to persist for an extended period of time.”


Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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