Spartan, Microsoft’s secret browser project, isn’t so secret anymore. At its Windows 10 Consumer Preview event, Microsoft gave us our first real look at Spartan and introduced three big features coming to the browser thanks to Windows 10.
There’s no word yet if Internet Explorer will still be in development side-by-side with Spartan, but chances are that Microsoft may bundle both the browsers together and gradually phase out Internet Explorer.
Let’s look at Spartan, what this means for other third-party browsers, and whether Microsoft finally understands the importance of the browsing experience for consumers.
An Introduction to the Spartan Browser
There’s a lot of stigma associated with Internet Explorer. It’s clunky, laden with issues, and it’s never truly been updated for the current scope of the Web, like other browsers out there. That is, until now. Spartan is Microsoft’s attempt to compete with the likes of Chrome and Firefox, to show consumers that they do understand browsing.
Spartan will be pre-loaded on Windows 10 for release and will come to Windows Phone and other platforms in the future. Spartan looks and feels like the modern UI Windows 8/8.1 apps use, keeping that style and functionality in tact. Spartan will not utilize IE’s rendering engine which could be hit or miss, depending on other backend changes Microsoft makes to the browser. However, this is a step in the right direction, getting away from the negative association users have with Internet Explorer.
With this new rendering engine comes the end of support for legacy IE web sites. Microsoft has warned those still using legacy IE web site design schemes that they’ll want to consider and update their web sites accordingly for the modern Web. For some, this’ll be a great opportunity to do just that and jump into the future; for others, who are designing their web sites by themselves or don’t have the money to invest in a new site, this may cause issues.
Joe Belfiore introduced three key features in Spartan while wrapping up the Windows 10 presentation that make it a more universal browser for Windows 10, and other, users.
Spartan is more than just a browser, it’s a way to interact and share with the Web. You are able to freeze a page within the browser, with live links intact, and markup the page as you see fit. You can take notes with a stylus or your fingertips, use OneNote to make notes that are saved on the page, you can even clip sections of a page for future use.
Right now, it seems you can only save these notes/clips in OneNote but that may change before Spartan is finalized to make it more universal for Windows 10 users.
Spartan and Cortana
Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now. Cortana is built in to Spartan. When you search for something, Cortana would be able to help you with getting the information you need.
Cortana is also meant to provide more information to you that is related to what you’re doing online that you may not think about when searching initially. This feature seems very similar to Google Now and how, if you’re logged into a Google account when using Google search, you’re given information on everything from flight or hotel reservations to weather and sports scores from your area.
Spartan Reading Mode
Reading mode takes its design from the Windows 8/8.1 Reading List app that lets you strip something you want to read down to an easier to read format. This clears the cutter of the rest of the browser and screen, giving you an optimized for reading opportunity.
Apple’s offered this for years, and when paired with the Reading List app in Windows 10, you’ll be able to sync your lists across Windows platforms which ties into the Windows Everywhere theme
Things We Don’t Know About Spartan, Yet
There are still many lingering questions about what will make Spartan compete with Chrome, Firefox and other third-party browsers, especially when it comes to themes and extensions, which make these third-party browsers quite attractive to the users. As of now, there’s no word on whether Microsoft will integrate themes and extensions into Spartan, although it’s widely been rumored that they will. This could be a huge reason for users to give Spartan a chance from the get go, but Microsoft has always been cautious to let users control their own browsing experience.
The Windows 10 Consumer Preview event showed a beautiful, sleek new browser for Microsoft users, but it didn’t address key issues when it comes to security flaws in IE, compatibility issues across platform and how they’re going to address the number of web sites on the Web that rely on IE legacy design structure (besides you know, telling them redesign your whole web site.)
A lot of people are already applauding Microsoft’s efforts without Spartan without having used it yet. It’s going to take more than a pretty browser that looks like it’ll correct most of the issues with IE to get consumers to give it a real shot. Spartan could be Microsoft’s browsing triumph, only if they’ve learned and corrected the flaws from Internet Explorer from the last 20 years.
Instead of just hoping that their vision of browsing – and what they’re showing with Spartan is the right path – if they truly want Spartan to succeed, Microsoft needs to let go and forget about IE.