The Cortana sidebar holds lots of promise. Getting background information on a page without having to navigate to another browser tab is genuinely useful, though in my brief tests you generally have to “Ask Cortana” as the automatic notifications rarely kick in.
Project Spartan also has a Developer Tools window, accessed by pressing F12 or choosing it from settings, which lets you explore the HTML source and perform profiling and debugging.
What really counts though is the performance and standards support in Project Spartan. In terms of standards support, this is a big step forward from IE, and shunting compatibility modes into a legacy browser makes good sense.
You can check the current standards status here. Performance currently is mixed; the impression I get is that EdgeHTML is working well but the new browser shell can cause problems.
Settings in Project Spartan are greatly simplified compared with IE’s complex Internet Options dialog. They have been reduced to a few basics including home page, cookie blocking, SmartScreen Filter for security, and enabled add-ons (currently only Adobe Flash).
It is not yet clear what you do if you need some of the additional settings only available in IE, or how Group Policy management, used by enterprises to control Windows settings, will apply to Project Spartan.
It would be a shame if users remain stuck on IE because of its greater manageability, rather than just for compatibility reasons, particularly now that IE cannot use the new engine.
Integrated Cortana looks like a hit, but yet again the rough preview nature of the whole Project Spartan package makes you wonder how Microsoft will get it release-ready in time for the Windows 10 launch later this year. ®