According to a recent report by Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Microsoft is building a lightweight browser, codenamed “Spartan”.
A post written by Foley reveals that Spartan is “new” and “isn’t [Internet Explorer].” Her post notes that it could be set free inside of the Windows 10 release schedule. In short, Microsoft may be building a speedy, simpler browser that maintains use of Internet Explorer’s rendering engine.
Internet Explorer has had a ribald history, growing from zero market share, to market-dominating heights, to slow decline in the face of Firefox, to faster decline in the face of Chrome, to a recent re-acceleration under a new, standards-based approach. Its life has been bitcoin’s late 2013 to date, but stretched out over several decades.
Whether the company’s recent moves have been enough to salvage Internet Explorer’s tarnished brand, however, is open to interpretation. Microsoft certainly wants its browser to gain market share, especially on the new Windows 10 platform that it hopes to deploy from smartphones all the way to televisions.
If Microsoft wants Windows 10 to function across all platforms and wants developers to be able to develop once and deploy everywhere, then creating a new browsing experience that is built to handle all sorts of inputs — without the baggage of a traditional desktop browsing experience — would be a decent idea.
The company, in the second half of January, is expected to release the consumer-facing preview of Windows 10 in that window, is under some pressure here. If it fails to impress, it will directly undercut the momentum that it has built for its new operating system. A new browsing tool could help boost human interest in its new platform.
Perhaps it is better to ask ourselves what would happen to Microsoft’s browsing market share long term, if it fails to reimagine Internet Explorer.