Microsoft experiments with Home windows handheld mode for Steam Deck and extra

Microsoft is exploring early ideas round a Home windows handheld mode for units just like the Steam Deck. A leaked video posted on Twitter by h0x0d reveals early idea and prototype work for an optimized Home windows 11 UI for handhelds, and a launcher and Home windows gaming shell that’s designed for touchscreens and controllers.

The video is a part of a hackathon mission inside Microsoft from September, the place workers commonly current concepts or initiatives that typically find yourself getting help from Microsoft executives and find yourself delivery.

Whereas it’s not clear who’s narrating the video, they do a great job of highlighting all the present problems with working Home windows on a handheld gaming gadget just like the Steam Deck. Valve presents drivers for Home windows on Steam Deck, however the Home windows UI is troublesome to navigate with contact or a controller, and there’s no devoted launcher like SteamOS has.

The video references some prototype handheld work created by Dorothy Feng, a senior UX designer at Microsoft. It features a launcher that may open video games from Steam, PC Sport Move, EA Play, Epic Video games Retailer, and extra. This handheld gaming prototype additionally features a keyboard optimized for the Steam Deck that may be navigated utilizing a controller, and even a floating taskbar that we’ve seen Microsoft tease earlier than.

The staff engaged on this hackathon mission additionally began working with a developer that created a way to make use of Steam Deck controls throughout Home windows. There’s even a gaming shell personalized for Home windows and created by Hayden McAfee, a senior software program engineer at Microsoft who works on gaming experiences for Home windows.

The hackathon mission resulted in a setup expertise the place drivers and providers are put in, the controller works, and there’s a launcher to shortly launch video games from totally different shops. It appears like tremendous early work and there’s an extended record of points and optimizations that might be wanted in Home windows and the Xbox app for Microsoft to make this a actuality.

On the finish of the video there’s a name to motion for fellow Microsoft workers to “get critical about handheld gaming on Home windows” that may assist enhance Microsoft’s picture and credibility within the PC gaming neighborhood. 

Whereas this mission might by no means ship, it’s encouraging to see Microsoft workers pushing for it to occur. Microsoft was fast to help Xbox Cloud Gaming on the Steam Deck, however we’ve heard little about its Home windows ambitions for handheld gaming outdoors of this leaked presentation.

Numerous Swap-like handheld gaming units from GPD and OneXPlayer and even the Ayaneo 2 have been counting on Home windows with out an optimized UI from Microsoft. Which means firms should construct their very own interfaces and launchers to make Home windows extra controller and handheld pleasant.

There are indicators that we’ll begin to see much more Home windows handheld units quickly, too. Asus simply introduced its ROG Ally, which goals to go face to face with the Steam Deck and is powered by a personalized Ryzen APU from AMD and Home windows 11. A Home windows handheld mode actually make plenty of sense proper now.