Microsoft Corp. officials often tout the companys online crash reporting tool, code-named Watson, for helping to cut the number of bugs in each subsequent release of Microsofts desktop office suite.
Microsoft is looking to take the Watson metaphor to Windows Server, according to Microsoft partner sources, who requested anonymity. The result, an automated crash-reporting tool, code-named Zephyr, is expected to debut in 2005.
Microsoft is positioning Zephyr as a byproduct of its Customer Experience Program, partner sources said.
Zephyr will be integrated with "R2," the Windows Server 2003 update that is due out by the end of 2005. But only some, not all, of the R2 subsystems will be monitored by Zephyr, partners said.
Zephyr is expected to work almost exactly like Watson. Windows Server users experiencing system crashes or hangs will be asked, via a dialog box, whether they would like to submit a crash report directly to Microsoft. Microsoft, in turn, will collect the user data and use it to weed out and fix the most commonly experienced system problems.
Zephyr, like Watson, will be an opt-in feature, partner sources said. Once users agree to send their reports, Microsoft will request some basic system configuration data. After that data is collected the first time, the process of collecting user crash information will be automated.
According to partner sources, Microsoft sees Zephyr as a two-way street. Zephyr will provide users with a way to help Microsoft fix bugs in its products from the time they go beta, right though the time that they are final. And it will provide Microsoft with real-time feedback that will help the company shape its current and future products.