Microsoft hackathon project looked at putting Windows on Steam Deck

The unofficial effort isn't going further, for now.


You can technically run Windows on gaming handhelds like the Steam Deck, but it's not really designed for small-screened devices and their specialized hardware. However, there's at least one person at Microsoft who would like to improve the situation. Developer and Reddit user AndrewMT has confirmed that a Walking Cat video leak represents a hackathon project meant to optimize Windows 11 for Steam Deck-style devices. The proposal from September would have not only improved driver support, but fine-tuned the interface and introduced tools to help you quickly launch and exit games regardless of which service they came from.

The project was spurred by the desire to use multiple non-Steam services (such as Xbox Game Pass and GOG) and Windows' support for game mods and trainers, AndrewMT says. He also notes that The Verge isn't right in suggesting that this is an ongoing initiative. The handheld Windows proposal "didn't go much of anywhere," the developer explains. While Xbox head Phil Spencer offered contact with people who could help, they were occupied at the time. AndrewMT is hopeful the publicity will help pitch the idea a second time.

Numerous gaming handhelds, including the new ASUS ROG Ally as well as portables from Ayaneo and GPD, already run Windows out of the box. However, their creators typically load custom front-ends to make up for Windows' lack of optimization. And while you can technically use Xbox Cloud Gaming on a Steam Deck thanks to the web, Valve's system is ultimately a Linux machine built to run Steam games.

A project like AndrewMT's would theoretically encourage manufacturers to build Windows-powered handhelds. They wouldn't have to pour as much work into software, and could expect games from a wide range of stores to run smoothly. Any official commitment would take a while to pan out, however. While Microsoft senior user experience designer Dorothy Feng has already explored a prototype handheld interface, there's considerably more work necessary to make this proposal a practical reality.