In Windows 10, Microsoft will be breaking from the past. Somewhat. And at least when it comes to web browsers. It will still ship with Internet Explorer “for legacy reasons”, but it wants people to know that it is working on the next big thing, presently codenamed “Spartan”. Unlike the bloat that is usually associated with IE, Spartan is absolutely minimal. It doesn’t even have visible window borders! But more than just its looks, Spartan has a few talents to show, including a special friendship with Cortana.
While Cortana is already integrated into the Windows 10 experience, she gets up, close, and personal, and maybe even in the way, when it comes to Spartan. The best way to describe it is probably that Cortana browses with you. Open up an interesting web page, like a restaurant’s site, and Cortana will try to look up additional information and offer them to you at her sidebar, hidden by default at the right side of the “window”.
You can also summon Cortana manually. If you need to learn more about a word or phrase, simply highlight those and right-click to Ask Cortana. The information will again popup on the right, showing you what you need without forcing you to navigate away to another tab. Of course, unless you want or need to.
And like any other search engine, Cortana can also be found on Spartan’s address bar. Searching for certain keywords will trigger her and present some possible results, like telling you the weather. It’s somewhat like Google’s cards, except they won’t take you to a separate page and just shows you what you need to know right then and there.
This is admittedly one of the most useful features to come out of the new browser and, if Microsoft won’t include it in Internet Explorer, it might help wean users off the dinosaur. That said, some privacy-minded users might not appreciate the virtual assistant snooping in on their browsing history, though they probably won’t be using Cortana at all anyway.