Windows 10 - A little of the new Spartan browser in 10041 IE version

Oostdam logo Windows 10Upgrading towards a newer release on a Windows 10 Technical Preview can be difficult sometimes. Still, as I think this is one of Microsoft's best operating systems ever made and it's still getting better and better as the releases are going better and better, following each other up in a continuous delivery way that I have never seen before from a large company like Microsoft is. This new OS is going to give Microsoft it's boost for the next decade as it will become the single platform form device all over the world, from phone, laptop. personal computer, towards large screens, game consoles and other devices. Mark my word for it!

It has been a while since Microsoft released a new build version, but finally they did last week. I must say that not a whole lot of large changes has been released, but as a Windows 10 enthusiast I will describe most of the new things in this article for you. (New in build 10041 version.) A you tube video of upgrading towards this version will be published later today. Have fun reading this article and if you like to give some feedback or want something explained further more, please do not hesitate to contact me, I will write an extra article on the topic in a couple of hours time. 

At Mobile World Congress last week, a Microsoft executive said that in the next release of Windows 10 to Insiders, Spartan would be part of the build. But in last weeks released build 10041, Spartan is not part of the package. Mr. Gabe Aul, talked about why Spartan is absent in this build. It's rather the same story on how difficult it is to say exactly when features will be published in new build versions. As we all know, that is a continuous "dev" problem for everyone, but it seems that the Spartan browser is simply not ready.

While this is certainly not what Insiders would like to hear - as many w're hoping to play with the new browser- in this iteration, Microsoft has a defined process for when features are ready to be flighted to Insiders. Also, you have to consider the impact of releasing a buggy version of Spartan. Spartan is much more than a new browser for Microsoft; it is a fresh start for their fight to maintain market share lead in the browser segment. If they release a buggy build of Spartan, there is a possibility that the browser will immediately be burdened by negative perceptions before it even hits market - and Microsoft cannot afford for this to happen. But there is still a little smile for us as "Insiders" because Microsoft actually did publish half of the new Spartan browser in this IE of build 10041. The new rendering engine of Spartan is already present in this build and a new flag option lets us users decide if we want to use these new forked rendering engine. Let me explain this a little bit more.

Microsoft has found itself in a peculiar position when it comes to browsing the web and their default IE browser. With Internet Explorer facing strong competition from Google, Mozilla and FireFox, a browser ballot that no longer existst, and probably a few new OS operating systems in the near future, Internet Explorer is the place where it needs a big showing/presenting in- & within Windows 10 to make sure that its market share remains ahead of the competition for the next couple of years to come. Over the years, yes, lets call it a decade, Internet Explorer has had a perception problem that is rooted in IE6 and for some, IE7 and IE8 too. It's the legacy applications that are still impacting the IE brand but as recent published data shows, even with the negative connotation, overall, Internet Explorer (IE) still remains an incredibly relevant and important in the browser conversation. And with IE12 on the horizon that will bring an updated interface and a couple of (new)browser extensions, there are changes going on under the hood that are expected to improve performance for the application.

Microsoft has already made a rather large decision regarding Trident, the engine that powers the browser from within, and no, it's not adopting Webkit. The team behind the engine has forked Trident into two components that will result in a new .DLL when the browser finally ships. The forking of Trident, copying off the base code, so there are actually two version, is a Microsoft strategic move to have legacy support no longer impact modern webpages. How it works, per our internal sources, is that if a page calls for IE to render in a compatibility mode, this will cause the older, more resource intensive Trident engine to display the page. Call it a new kind of compatibility mode, but, if the webpage does not call for compatibility mode, then the updated IE12 Trident engine will handle all of the lifting as well as the rendering. Because of the fork, the new modern component of the IE12 (Spartan) should be lightweight compared to what we have now in IE11, at least, that's the hope because all of the legacy base has been removed by then.

It's because of this fork, we believe, that the rumors started that Microsoft was releasing a brand new browser that's not Internet Explorer. And as Mary-Jo Foley publicly reported, she's hearing rumors that Spartan, which was reported back half September 2015, that has a new user interface as well, is the new lightweight browser that may not be called IE12 :-). IE12 is a huge project for Microsoft and while every release is a big deal, this will be the first browser to come out from the Microsoft Redmond Headquarters since Mr. Nadella took the top job. If they screw this up, it will be a significant challenge to overcome if users find that IE12 is not what consumers want to use to consume the web.

Microsoft has moved ahead with Internet Explorer's new forked rendering engine, including it in the latest 'official' build of Windows 10, 10041. A new flag in the browser allows users to control when it is used. The new engine is Microsoft's attempt to break away from legacy features in Internet Explorer. Microsoft earlier decided to "fork" the Trident rendering engine into two parts. If a website calls for compatibility mode, then the older and more resource intensive Trident engine from IE11 will display the site, otherwise, the more lightweight and updated IE12 Trident engine called "Edge 12.0" will handle it instead. IE12 enable Trident Spartan engine in Windows 10 preview - Oostdam.InfoBy default, Internet Explorer will decide which engine is used, however, that can be changed on a new "flags"page included in IE12, called "Experimental Features", which is located by typing "about:flags" into the address bar. Other (earlier) versions including IE11 on Windows 8.1, do not have this page. On the new configuration page, Microsoft refers to the new rending engine as "Experimental Web Platform Features" and gives you three options, including "automatic", "enabled", and "disabled". Set that option on "Enabled" and you are using the new updated IE12 Trident engine. Scroll to the bottom of the page, apply the changes, and restart your IE browser. You are now working with the new engine, Real testers should try and test the other options available in this page as well. At this moment I'm not sure of which earlier releases of the Windows 10 Preview versions contained these options as well.


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Ben Oostdam picture - afbeeldingBen Oostdam has been working with Windows systems since 1993. Started shortly with Windows NT 4, worked for several companies as a system administrator, and is currently a Senior System Engineer for a High Quality service organization in the Netherlands.

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