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Microsoft eyes data-gathering services

The software giant's push into services could result in data-based offerings to improve network management.

BOSTON--Sitting on a trove of data, Microsoft intends to provide services designed to spot bugs and improve performance on corporate networks, a company executive said Monday.

Microsoft has made its Live online services a major focus for product development, particularly for consumers. But company executives at this week's Microsoft TechEd conference are providing clues on the hosted services they expect to offer their business customers.

The company already offers traditional application hosting services, such as a hosted edition of its Exchange messaging software. But some of the services Microsoft intends to offer business customers may be informational, Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools division, told CNET News.com.

Muglia said Microsoft plans to share with partners and corporate customers the mountains of data coming into the company. Applications, such as Office and Windows, use an automated system called Watson to "phone home" and send bug information to Microsoft.

"We can get a real understanding of how our customers use our products, and by getting that understanding we can really improve what we're doing in really substantial ways," said Muglia.

For example, Microsoft could collect and correlate information that indicates "best practices" on how to manage or configure a company network in certain scenarios, he said. Corporate customers would opt-in for any kind of data-collecting service to protect privacy, he added.

Microsoft could also provide third-party partners, such as device manufacturers, where bugs occurred in great detail to improve products, Muglia said.

"We're opening up those channels of data to the (partner) ecosystem, and the next step is really opening it up to customers," he said.

He added that Microsoft's management tools will act as the vehicle for collecting information.

There will be a fee for these services, which will likely be combined as part of an enterprise contract, he said.