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Phil Spencer wants handheld gaming PC OS “to feel like an Xbox”

While Phil Spencer is an admirer or the Lenovo Legion Go, he knows there is work to be done if Xbox wants to enter the Steam Deck world.

The xbox logo with a Steam Deck laid over it

It’s no secret that Phil Spencer is an admirer of handheld gaming PCs having talked about how the Xbox brand can break into the scene on multiple occasions. Now, in a new interview from GDC, we know a little bit more about what exactly he wants.

We believe the Steam Deck OLED is the best handheld gaming PC on the market right now, but competitors such as the ROG Ally and Legion Go have sizable audiences too. In fact, it was while playing on his Legion Go that Phil Spencer seemingly realized what he wants from his Xbox brand, and it’s not just another piece of hardware.

Speaking to Polygon, the Xbox chief states he wants his “Lenovo Legion Go to feel like an Xbox”. That’s a simple and reasonable request for sure, but it also shows that Spencer isn’t set on an Xbox handheld necessarily meaning new hardware.

Instead, he goes on to suggest that “I want to be able to boot into the Xbox app in a full screen but in a compact mode”. This is the first real indication that we could soon see a better integrated Xbox app available for handheld gaming PCs, providing quick and easy access to games without having to navigate Windows foibles.

Around the recent Xbox business update, Spencer was on the record talking about how Windows is arguably the biggest limiting factor of devices such as the Ally and Legion Go. However, let’s face it, Valve isn’t about to just let Microsoft run a GamePass app on SteamOS either.

Giving credit to competitors, Spencer acknowledges that “Valve, Lenovo, and Asus went out and innovated in a new form factor. And I will say that when I’m playing those devices, it almost feels more like a console than a PC.” On this, we absolutely agree. Modern handheld gaming, despite using hardware more in line with mini PCs, feels far more akin to the experiences we had on the PSP, PS Vita, and even the GameBoy Advance.

This new line of thinking shows that Xbox is serious about investing in the handheld space, but wants to do so in a way that makes the most sense, and is safe. This is contrary to the approach from PlayStation with its Portal; many users are still struggling to understand why this device is so limited.

We’re excited to track Xbox’s progress on gaming handhelds, but we don’t expect to see any solid announcements until next year. Unless, of course, Microsoft is simply holding its cards very close to its chest, and work is already underway on the ideal app that Phil Spencer appears to desperately desire.

For a look at some great experiences on the go, check out the best Steam Deck games you can play, all of which have been verified for Valve’s pocket powerhouse.