Will Ask Jeeves Do the Trick for Microsoft?

Earlier this week, when Microsoft Corp. announced that it will employ Ask Jeeves to answer customer questions on a wide range of its applications, the Emeryville, California-based search engine’s stock soared.

By mid-morning on Monday, 1 million shares of Ask Jeeves shares had changed hands — pumping its price up $11 (US$) a share to about $62.

The popular search engine uses natural-language search technology that allows users to type in simple questions instead of typing in keywords. Dell Computer, Inc., among other well-known companies, already has it incorporated into its Web site.

Eliminate Phone Calls

Some industry observers feel that Microsoft is smart to adopt Ask Jeeves technology because it could be powerful enough to eventually eliminate the thousands of phone calls the software giant receives each day about its operating systems.

It has been reported that Microsoft’s online support services already field about 280,000 customers a day, while live technicians at the Redmond, Washington-based company handle about 20,000 phone calls from users.

Analysts speculate that Ask Jeeves technology is powerful enough to eventually eliminate the need for the live phonecalls — thereby freeing up tremendous resources that could be directed elsewhere.

Sounds Good, But…

This kind of smart technology sounds good in theory, but it may be something quite different in practice. To me, there’s nothing more frustrating than going to a Web site for some technical help, only to find that the site is overloaded.

Additionally, how in the world is Ask Jeeves going to answer questions about the Windows 98 operating system that seem unanswerable?

Here Are A Few Questions For Jeeves

Jeeves, why is it that my brand-new eMachines computer freezes up at least three times a day for no apparent reason and has to be rebooted?

And Jeeves, why does my computer suddenly freeze while I’m ready to file a story via the Internet, so badly that it won’t even reboot after I hit the Ctrl-Alt-Del a dozen times?

Please, Jeeves, can you tell me why I continue to get Window messages saying I’ve just completed an “illegal” application — while I’m simply doing my work on its software?

Finally, Ask Jeeves, will my Microsoft warranty still be in effect if I take a sledgehammer to my computer the next time it says I’ve somehow committed a “fatal” error and has to be rebooted?

Humans Need To Stay On

I thought so, Jeeves.

Until these annoying bugs can be cleansed from Windows 98, humans need to be on hand. You simply will not do the trick.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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