Microsoft Is Testing Windows 11 Changes for the Steam Deck

Steam Deck sitting on a table
Marcus Mears III / How-To Geek

Valve’s Steam Deck handheld is designed for Steam OS, a custom version of Linux, but it can also run Windows. Microsoft is reportedly experimenting with changes to Windows 11 specifically for the Steam Deck and other PC handhelds.

A leaked video posted to Twitter by Walking Cat (@_h0x0d_) appears to be an internal Microsoft presentation about a hackathon for “Windows Handheld Mode” that took place in September 2022. The videos explains that that the Steam Deck and other PC handhelds are more popular than ever right now, but Windows still isn’t optimized for them at all — some apps can’t resize properly, the controls can’t be used to navigate Windows, the touch keyboard isn’t good enough, and so on.

image of a settings panel for handheld mode

Microsoft employees worked to address these problems during the hackathon. A custom launcher was created for easier access to games, and the touch keyboard was updated with improved sizing and controller support.

The team also worked with the developer for an unofficial Steam Deck Windows Controller Driver to make the controls usable across more of the Windows interface. Windows 11 would need more substantial changes to work without constantly reaching for the touchscreen, but the results are an imporovement. There’s also a floating task bar in one screenshot that was teased last year.

images of custom launcher

The early results look impressive, but it’s not clear if the features will ever be finished and rolled out for testing outside of Microsoft. Handheld console-like devices running Windows are nothing new — the GPD Win series has been around for years — but new chips from AMD and Intel are making them more competitive with full-size PCs and consoles.

Source: WalkingCat (Twitter), The Verge

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