Microsoft has announced an all-new Web browser for its upcoming Windows 10 operating system, codenamed Spartan.
The browser, which was demoed during a press event, looks more like Google’s Chrome than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. It’s not just about the browser’s looks, though. Microsoft says the new browser also comes with an improved rendering engine that should make surfing the Web a lot smoother.
One of the coolest features coming to Spartan is its Cortana virtual-assistant integration. Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now; you can speak to it, ask it questions, and command it to perform tasks for you. Previously, it was available only on Windows Phone; with Spartan and Windows 10 it comes to the desktop. With Spartan, Cortana can scour websites for important information and provide it to you in an easy-to-digest format.
In one demo, Cortana pulled up information about a user’s flight information as soon as he started typing the word “Delta” into Spartan’s search bar. Cortana can also add a popup window to the side of the browser to provide you with specific info about things you search for, like directions to a particular restaurant.
Beyond that, Spartan comes with a new inking feature that lets you annotate websites in real time using your tablet’s or laptop’s touchscreen and a stylus or your finger. You can also click on a portion of a webpage and annotate it using standard text, just as you can in Microsoft Word.
Finally, a new reader feature lets you clear extraneous information from a webpage, so you can read only the information you want. So if you’re checking out an article that has a lot of ads or other artifacts around it, you can switch on the reader feature, and all you’ll see is the text you need.
You can also save articles for reading later on directly within the browser, rather than having to use an app like Pocket or Instapaper.
Based on the brief demo that was shown, Spartan looks like a huge improvement over the stale workhorse that is Internet Explorer.
That’s not to say Spartan will completely replace IE, though. According to a previous report by ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, Internet Explorer will still be a part of Windows 10, but mostly to support backward compatibility for older sites.