It's an all-too-common outrage for computer users: Out of the blue, an infamous "fatal error" message appears, or the machine simply stops dead. The angst that such software bugs cause may never be tallied, but analysts have now estimated the financial impact of those failures. Because so much software sold to industry has errors built into it, the U.S. economy loses nearly $60 billion a year, reports the Research Triangle Institute of Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Because this estimate omits impacts on computer users at home and in the government, the costs could actually be higher, the institute notes in its 309-page report (http://www.nist.gov/director/prog-ofc/report02-3.pdf).
To improve the situation, better and earlier software testing is needed, the report says. Although imperfect, that solution would eliminate many bugs before they reach customers, thereby reducing the financial losses by about a third. The National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., which funded the study, announced the report's findings on June 28.