Microsoft wants more details on how its products are used so it can make its applications "almost entirely crash-free" and build features users want.
With the launch of Office 2003 later this quarter, Microsoft will also introduce a customer experience improvement programme for Office.
Users will be asked to volunteer information on feature usage, software and hardware performance and the type and frequency of errors, said Eric LeVine, group program manager for Office.
The programme builds on Microsoft's error reporting tool in Windows XP and Office XP, which asks users to send a report to Microsoft when an application crashes. The customer experience improvement programme goes a step further with much broader usage data sent to Microsoft without alerting the user.
"With error reporting there are explicit events. The customer experience improvement programme gives us an anonymous ongoing feed," LeVine said.
Users will be asked to join the program a few days after installing Office 2003. After a user opts in, the data gathering happens in the background and does not bog down the system.
Microsoft already uses the customer experience improvement programme for its Money, Windows Media and MSN Explorer products.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service