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A version of Windows 11 for handheld gaming? Yes, please

Microsoft might have just given us a small, but hopeful glimpse of a possible Windows 11 gaming UI designed to be used with small handheld gaming devices. It might also be a sign that Redmond is finally taking portable PC gaming more seriously.

During an internally-hosted Microsoft hackathon event back in September, an experimental Windows interface has gotten the attention of the portable gaming device community, thanks to a tweeted leak. Called “Windows Handheld Mode”, the interface essentially brings a gaming shell or launcher in lieu of a regular Windows 11 desktop UI.

Returnal running on the Steam Deck.

While many handheld gaming devices come with Windows 11 pre-installed, it’s no secret that Windows isn’t meant for smaller devices that navigate with a mix of gaming controls and touch. It’s been one of the main concerns about possible Windows-based handhelds, such as the recently announced Asus ROG Ally.

The tweet shows an enlarged taskbar, and a gaming-specific launcher with equally large icons, among other highlights. Apparently, the designers of the “Handheld Mode” had their heads to the ground and thus made navigating Windows and quickly accessing games easier with gaming controls.

While there is no guarantee that experiments like these may see the light of day, it’s great that Redmond seems to be acknowledging the growing popularity of cloud gaming plus the limitations of Windows on handheld gaming PCs, especially with more brands jumping onto the handheld gaming PC arena.

Valve’s Steam Deck may be the halo device in the category, but with a Windows Handheld Mode, brands like Asus (with its ROG Ally) and GPD (with its Win series) now look like they may have a chance at offering a fitting alternative.

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Aaron Leong
Computing Writer
Aaron enjoys all manner of tech - from mobile (phones/smartwear), audio (headphones/earbuds), computing (gaming/Chromebooks)…
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