IBM offers 'smart' diagnostic tool

Online support "agents" will gather information about the computer, including configuration, files, applications and options, and automatically perform system diagnostics and changes. Customers will be able to choose to download fixes to their computer problems or summon a live support centre technician to help solve the problem. The smart agents will be able to also intelligently identify and update the latest problem-solving tools from the IBM support site. IBM licensed the e-support technology and tools from, a Web-based support infrastructure software developer.

Dave Hume, IBM's director of services development, described the diagnostic tool as a means to supplement, not supplant, customer support over the phone.

"What we're doing here is allowing the agent to diagnose common software configuration problems," he said. "Say you're a traveling [executive], a road warrior with your ThinkPad, and you're not surrounded by your support staff. Downloading and installing a driver or a DLL file could be intimidating when your technical expertise is not deep."

The diagnostic tool will be shipped as a free addition to new computers, beginning with certain models near the beginning of the third quarter, he said.

To protect consumer privacy, users will be able to set the frequency of their computers' connection to IBM's databases and the kind of information sent. The privacy issue raised by this kind of software is of growing concern to IT managers, said Tony Adams, a senior analyst at technology market research firm Dataquest.

"The good news is that the big vendors aren't selling this information," he said. "They have more to lose by far than they'll gain. They have too much to risk in backlash by selling this information." Adams said users should encrypt the data sent if possible, but that "this kind of data sent is not the kind of data hackers could use, unless they're very sophisticated."

Home PC users and small-business owners with only a handful of computers who need a low cost, high-impact way of resolving complexity on the desktops will best benefit from the diagnostic tool, Adams said.

As complexity of computer configurations increases, diagnostic tools like this will likely become requirements, Adams said. Human computer technicians -- a scarce commodity -- simply won't be in large enough supply to be able to assess the impact a change will have on individual systems with tens of thousands of variables.

"What other vendors have said is that these [diagnostic] systems don't save us money, but they transfer money to a scalable area," said Adams. "It will supplant a lot of human labor that doesn't require a lot of know-how."

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?