MS plans error reporting tool for corporate users

Microsoft plans to offer corporate customers a version of its Dr. Watson error reporting tool to help administrators pinpoint and solve software problems, a Microsoft executive said Tuesday.

PC users can already send error reports to Microsoft via the Internet when an application crashes or other software trouble occurs. The information is collected at Microsoft and used to determine what needs to be done to solve the problem. The bug reports can result in a software update distributed via Windows Update.

"The idea is to extend Online Dr. Watson and give the corporate software developer the ability to analyze issues in their applications so they can provide fixes," said Mike Nash, vice president of Microsoft's security business unit, in an interview at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in New Orleans. Microsoft refers to the product internally as Online Dr. Watson.

In the case of an application crash, Dr. Watson logs what application caused the crash and what it was doing when it failed.

Dr. Watson currently works with Windows and Office, and Microsoft is working to expand support to include all of its products. Corporate users would have to do some work to link custom applications to the reporting tool if they want to use it for monitoring non-Microsoft applications, Nash said.

Additionally, Microsoft is looking to make available to corporate customers some of the tools it developed as part of its Trustworthy Computing initiative to root out vulnerabilities in its software code. They include a tool that scans code for constructions that are typically associated with a security vulnerability and recommends code changes, Nash said. As part of the security initiative, Microsoft last year halted the development work of thousands of software engineers while they scanned software for security holes.

The developer tools potentially could be delivered as part of Microsoft Visual Studio .Net package for developers, Nash said.

"It is our goal to extend trustworthiness beyond Microsoft products," Nash said.

Plans for corporate versions of Dr. Watson and the code check tools are still in early stages, no release schedule has been made public yet, Nash said.

WinHEC in New Orleans runs through Thursday May 8.

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