Say goodbye, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Internet Explorer fans. Because after nearly 20 years of helping Netizens navigate the Web, your favorite browser is about to be replaced. And no, I'm not talking about Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chrome, even though it did overtake Internet Explorer earlier this year for the first time as the United States' most popular Web browser.
Instead, according to a report from ZDNet, Microsoft Corporation is readying its own replacement for its flagship browser starting with Windows 10. Codenamed "Spartan," ZDNet's sources say the new browser definitely isn't just the next build of IE. Rather, Spartan is being built as a revamped, lightweight, extension-enabled browser that happens to sport a more similar look and feel to both Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. And while IE 11 might temporarily be available for backward compatibility purposes in Windows 10, more than anything it sounds like Spartan could end up being everything IE isn't -- or at least everything frustrated IE users have grown to believe it isn't.
The question of rebranding or renaming Internet Explorer arose back in August, when a group of engineers from Microsoft's IE team decided to tackle a Reddit AMA ("Ask Me Anything") forum. One Microsoft engineer responded that the topic had been discussed internally, and then elaborated, "Plenty of ideas get kicked around about how we can separate ourselves from negative perceptions that no longer reflect our product today."
But why did Microsoft choose the complete replacement route? It's obviously the more laborious path, but it's also tremendously difficult for any company -- no matter how deep its pockets -- to positively reshape consumers' negative perceptions of a firmly entrenched product like IE. In Microsoft's case, those difficulties are almost certainly becoming more evident with each passing day as speed-oriented competitors like Chrome continue to take market share:
For perspective, that chart depicts the latest research from Adobe Digital Index this past April, where Chrome's 31.8% overall market share in the U.S. led the pack. Meanwhile, IE trailed close behind at 30.9%, followed by Apple's Safari at 25%.
Of course, it doesn't help that Chrome and Safari are firmly embedded in hundreds of millions of Android and iOS devices, giving them impressive 20.3% and 59.1% respective shares among U.S. mobile devices. By comparison, IE controlled just 1.8% of the U.S. mobile market. Where Chrome makes up significant ground, however, is by rounding things out with its 30.6% share of desktop browsing in the U.S., compared with 43.3% for IE and just 10.3% for Safari.
As a result, while Microsoft may not be able to do much to stem the rise of Google or Apple in the mobile realm, you can bet it would love to maintain its desktop dominance going forward with the help of Spartan.
Whether that's possible given Google's momentum remains to be seen. But for now, it's quite possible Microsoft could give us our first look at Spartan during its Jan. 21 Windows 10 reveal event, which the company has previously said will focus on the "Windows 10 consumer experience."
Still, ZDNet notes that may not happen if Spartan's code isn't quite ready for a primetime demo. But be sure to make a mental note if it does, because the rise of Spartan will mean the fall of Internet Explorer, which would mark the end of an era for the World Wide Web.
Steve Symington owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Adobe Systems, Apple, and Google (A and C shares) and owns shares of Apple, Google (A and C shares), and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.