Newell: Valve planning Steam-based living room PC for 2013

While rumors about a planned Valve-powered PC/console hybrid “Steam Box” have been swirling for months, the company has been pretty coy about confirming anything. In the past, Valve has said it might release gaming hardware “some day,” and the company was hiring hardware engineers and industrial designers to fill a “void in the marketplace.” Now, Valve boss Gabe Newell is done being coy. Newell spoke to Kotaku at Spike TV’s recent Video Game Awards red carpet and confirmed his company would start selling Steam-based hardware targeted at the living room gaming market next year.

Pointing to a “stronger than expected” response to Steam’s living room-focused Big Picture user interface, Newell said that getting the Linux version of Steam out of beta would also be key to developing low-cost, living room-friendly gaming PCs. While he said Valve is developing one such hardware solution itself, Newell sees other PC manufacturers experimenting with setups targeted at the living room gamer as well. “We’ll do it but we also think other people will as well,” Newell told Kotaku.

Newell added the Steam-based hardware would be aimed to directly compete against next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony. Such a move could shake up the game console market. Steam-powered hardware would likely launch with a healthy library of downloadable games at prices often much lower than their console counterparts (especially during the service’s frequent sales). It’s an open question whether Valve could bring in such hardware at a price competitive with dedicated gaming consoles or with the degree of modular upgradeability that PC gamers have come to expect from their machines.

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The contract between science and society, plus a possible new Renaissance

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—Given the number of famous scientists around, it’s easy to forget the full title of the Nobel Week Dialogue includes the phrase “impact on society.” But Helga Nowotny, the president of the European Research Council, was on hand to provide a remedy. Nowotny is a social scientist who spends a lot of time thinking about how science and society influence each other. She was next in line for a Nobel Week Dialogue talk.

Nowotny started out by noting genomics is often mentioned as a promising thing (like the “promise of genetic medicine” and so forth). But the term “promise,” she noted, implies a contract, and she did her best to make the details of that contract explicit. The payoff of getting this contract right in the case of genetics, she suggested, might be a second Renaissance.

Although attempts to understand the natural world have existed in almost every culture, institutionalized science of the sort we practice today only dates back a few hundred years. As it has grown, it has become increasingly reliant on society for support. In return, Nowotny said, science makes a number of promises. One is the promise of information that is above the vagaries of political and religious figures.

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Chavez faces cancer surgery in Cuba, vows he’ll be back

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez flew to Cuba on Monday for cancer surgery, with a vow to return quickly despite conceding for the first time that the disease could end his 14-year rule of the South American OPEC nation.

Congress, dreading automatic cuts, eyes yet another trigger

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Of the many distasteful elements to the year-end “fiscal cliff” that Washington is desperately trying to avoid, few are more loathed than the automatic, indiscriminate spending cuts scheduled to begin on January 2.

Cairo faces rival protests over constitution crisis

CAIRO (Reuters) – Opponents and supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s plans to vote on a new constitution will take to the streets in central Cairo later on Tuesday, risking more violent confrontation after last week’s deadly clashes.

Obama takes his case to people for "fiscal cliff" deal

REDFORD, Michigan (Reuters) – Making no visible headway in direct talks with Republicans, President Barack Obama took to the road on Monday to apply pressure on his political opponents to agree to a “fiscal cliff” deal that would raise taxes on the richest Americans.

Pandora Internet Radio Launches Fully In Australia And New Zealand With Mobile Apps For iOS And Android

Tim Pandora

Pandora has fully launched in Australia and New Zealand, the only two places outside of the U.S. where the service is available in its entirety, with the addition of mobile access via iOS and Android apps today. Previously, the service was available in a limited form in both countries thanks to a web-only access trial, but now smartphone users can get in on the action.

The service, which provides personalized streaming radio stations for listeners, has created Australia and New Zealand-specific stations to tailor the experience to its newest markets, the company relayed in a press release. The company anticipates significant uptake of its new free mobile apps in these markets, since it says Australians and New Zealanders are “among the world’s most mobile-centric societies.” In the U.S., Pandora says 75 percent of usage of its service now occurs via mobile apps, with over 115 million of its 175 million stateside registered members having accessed either the iOS or Android apps. Australian and New Zealand users can grab the new mobile apps here.

Pandora began beta testing service in Australia and New Zealand back in July, and in October the company said it remains “patiently opportunistic” regarding further international rollouts. As part of today’s full Australian and New Zealand launch, the company is partnering with Holden to offer Pandora as part of its in-car infotainment systems, too. Holden is an Australia-based automaker that’s also a subsidiary of General Motors. Pandora also brings on Jane Huxley as its Managing Director for the two regions. Huxley previously worked as CEO and Publisher, Digital at Fairfax Media, an Australian company that publishes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and many more websites and print publications.

In an email interview, Pandora’s Amanda Livingood said that New Zealand and Australia proved a fitting market for their first international expansion for a number of reasons.

“The music market is very complex where payments, royalties and related issues are concerned and we’ve recently finalized everything we need to get the Pandora experience off the ground in Australia and New Zealand,” she wrote. “We know Australians and New Zealanders love both local and international music and we also know that they’re huge users of mobile devices and social media.”

Livingood also reiterated that the company is “patiently opportunistic” with regards to additional expansion, but beyond expressing a hope to one day be able to offer the service globally, declined to discuss in detail any future plans for the service’s continued rollout.