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Xbox handheld may be more Steam Deck than PlayStation Portal

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Xbox handheld may be more Steam Deck than PlayStation Portal

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Image: Petar on Unsplash

Phil Spencer has all but confirmed Xbox is working on a gaming handheld during an interview with IGN. After the initial disappointment that the rumoured device didn’t crop up during the Xbox showcase, a few of the Microsoft Gaming CEO’s comments provide a little more light at the end of the tunnel.

Doing the usual ducking and weaving, Spencer didn’t actually announce anything, but he did agree that portables are a gaping hole in Xbox’s current range of hardware. When listing current options, he enthusiastically replied, “so we should have a handheld? I think we should have a handheld, too.” As you might expect, the company has nothing to reveal just yet, but teases that there’s a lot in store for its platform division, including “different form factors” and “different ways to play.”

Keen not to let him off the hook so easily, the interviewer followed up with a hypothetical question about whether such a device would play games natively or through the cloud. In what’s music to my ears, Spencer says “I like my ROG Ally, my Lenovo Legion Go is fantastic, my Steam Deck… I think playing being able to play games locally is really important.” In other words, as long as he has a say in what an Xbox handheld will look like, we should get a console that powers games, unlike the PlayStation Portal or Logitech G Cloud.

This is great news, and perhaps a little unexpected given Microsoft’s emphasis on the cloud. I’d consider it the correct move since not everyone has access to fast enough internet to play via the cloud. Plus, even if the connection isn’t an issue, latency and data caps will continue to be a problem for many. Meanwhile, a machine capable of running games locally already has enough power to switch to cloud streaming, giving the user the best of both worlds.

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Since Microsoft also owns Windows, it would be fantastic if its Xbox handheld featured a dual-boot system, letting us choose between Windows and Xbox’s OS. With this Microsoft is sure to attract attention, potentially even beating the beloved Steam Deck thanks to its Xbox compatibility. Who wouldn’t want a console that does it all?

The best part is that this shouldn’t add much, if any, expense to handheld development since the Xbox consoles and, subsequently, their OS are fairly similar to a Windows machine. As a reminder, you can buy Chinese motherboards with partially defective Xbox Series SOCs that can run Windows without any mods.

Seeing how Microsoft is pushing its upcoming Copilot/ARM-powered surface laptops, this hypothetical Xbox may also pack a Snapdragon X chip. Regardless of the final result, Microsoft will have quite the competition in this segment, so it better make good calls. Hopefully, we get yet another excellent machine to keep us busy during a commute. I can’t wait to put my hands on it.



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