Microsoft's new web browser has made its debut in the latest Windows 10 preview (Build 10049), available to participants in the Windows Insider program. Unveiled in a presentation on January 21, Project Spartan is an alternative to Internet Explorer designed to compete with innovative tools like Chrome and Firefox, in part through features that reinvent the very notion of what a web browser can do.
Still in the experimental stage, Spartan represents a complete overhaul of IE, with a new HTML rendering engine, support for the smart voice assistant Cortana, and innovative features such as the ability to save and share annotations on web pages.
Always in the background, Cortana is able to provide contextually relevant information when useful, such as weather reports or practical details on nearby shops and restaurants.
The new browser allows users to underline or highlight text and comment on web pages, and to share these annotations by email or on social networks. This feature might be particularly useful on smartphones and tablets equipped with a stylus.
Spartan also offers a new layout called Reading View, which limits distractions and makes it easier to focus on reading long articles online, and a Reading List, where users can keep track of the web documents they want to read.
Spartan, which will come with Microsoft's upcoming OS, is intended to be lighter and more user-friendly than IE and more along the lines of Chrome or Firefox.
IE has been Microsoft's signature browser for two decades now. After reigning as the world's leading browser for several years, IE fell behind Chrome and Firefox and has struggled to regain market share.
Windows 10 and the final version of Spartan are due to launch this summer in 190 countries and 110 languages.