Build is Microsoft's second preview of the month for "Fast Ring" testers

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) spokesperson and Windows team member Brandon LeBlanc just announced on the official Windows Blog that Windows 10 Build 10049 is available for download for Insider Preview members on the "Fast Ring."  The new build is noteworthy as it brings Microsoft's much-talked-about next-generation replacement to the Internet Explorer browser, called "Project Spartan."

After leaving Insider Preview testers disappointed in February with no build, Windows engineering manager Gabriel Aul (@GabeAul) stated on Mar. 13:

If it passes all of our evaluation criteria it could be in your hands late this week or early next week. That means that we could feasibly get multiple builds out in March rather than just one, and they’d have more up to date code than if we did it the other way.

At the time that comment was greeted with skepticism, but it looks like he lived up to that bold prediction, after following up on the Build 10041 release, which rolled out two weeks ago.

While Build 10041 brought much of Microsoft's latest UI direction and tweaks to Windows 10 testers (including the "Modern Glass" transparent Start Menu look), the new build is "all about Project Spartan" -- the fresh browser that Microsoft previewed to the public at a January press event.  LeBlanc writes of the build:

This build is pretty much all about Project Spartan, so we hope you enjoy getting your hands on it for the first time. As with all other new features we’ve introduced, we have a ton of work left to do with Spartan so expect to see some bugs and rough edges in this first preview. As always, we look forward to hearing your feedback via the Windows Feedback App.

Project Spartan browser in action
Project Spartan's "Inking" feature is seen here in action.

Among the highlighted features brought by the new browser include:
  • Cortana integration -- Cortana can now help you search from web content from right in the URL bar
  • Inking -- Annotate images with Paint-style brush strokes on touch-equipped devices.
  • Reading Lists and Reading View -- Save and view content, e.g. new articles.
  • Sharing -- There's a new option to instantly share content you like via various methods.
Microsoft's blog on the browser didn't mention much about extensions, which are rumored to be a key feature.... maybe it's hidden in there somewhere though.  Microsoft says its goal is for Project Spartan to:
  • "First, be an amazing browser..."
  • "Be bold and forward-looking..."
  • "Ship fast, try new things, learn and always get better..."

Microsoft writes that while Project Spartan will be the default consumer facing browser for Windows 10, Internet Explorer 11 will remain the default browser for the enterprise space.  It writes:

[W]e will continue to make it easy for our enterprise customers to make Internet Explorer 11 the default browser via group policy. Internet Explorer 11 is supported on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 for all customers, also providing a consistent platform that’s great for enterprise Web apps.

You might not want to install the build though on a development machine, though if you're a Visual Studio user or on a machine you're using to develop Universal Apps.  Microsoft's notes warn:
  • If you have Virtual Machines hosted on your PC running Windows 10, you will want to move to the Slow ring and wait for the next build as this build breaks the ability to run VMs.
  • There are 2 issues using Visual Studio 2015 preview on this build:
    • The emulators will not boot and you won’t be able to deploy a Windows Universal app to the Mobile emulator.
    • The XAML designer in VS and Blend will crash when opened.
Microsoft also warned that some testers internally have seen an odd blue screen upon login.  If this happens to you, simply lock the machine with the "Windows+L" keyboard shortcut and then log back in.  You should now see the Desktop environment.  Also, Microsoft warned that the Outlook email client has a bug that stops the Notifications UI element from indexing new emails.

Windows 10 Build 10049

Microsoft is looking to patch these issues and fix the dev-specific hangups.  It will release a "Slow Ring" version in coming weeks that's more stable and doesn't have these issues.

I'm downloading Build 10049 now and will look to share a look at Spartan, plus wrap up my overview of Build 10041 in an upcoming piece.

Sources: Blogging Windows [official Microsoft blog] [Build 10049 announcement], [more details on Project Spartan Browser]

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