More on the AOL Class-Action Suit and MCSE Certification

Last week, I briefly mentioned the AOL class-action lawsuit: A group of lawyers purporting to represent the 8 million people who have installed AOL 5.0 is suing the online giant for allegedly disabling competing online services. Although this is an important issue, I wasn't sure whether it would interest most Windows 2000 Magazine UPDATE readers, who tend to occupy the other end of the computing spectrum from typical AOL users. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of responses. Most readers disagreed with the notion that AOL had done nothing wrong. And maybe they're right.

In fact, many were surprised at my relative lack of concern about AOL's latest software, which apparently upsets any existing dial-up networking connections when it is installed. Because I'm not an AOL user and don't have a Windows 9x machine with a modem on which I can test this scenario, my reactions were based largely on a report by BugNet, widely considered to be an expert site for discovering and reporting software flaws. BugNet's overall conclusion regarding the AOL problem was simple: Although AOL 5.0 does indeed muck around a bit with users' settings, it does so in a way that Microsoft sanctions and even recommends.

But I've heard from a lot of AOL users who aren't exactly excited about the new software–-and, unlike me, most of them have hands-on experience with AOL 5.0. Regardless of blame, the problems are apparently real. Still, few seemed interested in seeing the company sued for $8 billion. Well, not seriously, anyway.

Most Windows 2000 Magazine UPDATE readers probably remember the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) ruckus earlier this year after Microsoft quietly removed Windows NT 4.0 from the default CD-ROM shipment that MSDN subscribers receive. Thanks to MSDNers' numerous complaints, however, Microsoft reversed course almost immediately, adding back NT 4.0 to the shipment. The suggestion that Microsoft was needlessly pushing its developers away from NT 4.0 and to Windows 2000 (Win2K) played a big role in this decision. Lately, other company moves have received the same kind of scrutiny. One example is Microsoft's certification process, which has become far more rigorous with Win2K—thankfully. However, many MCSE holders have complained about the company's schedule for removing and retiring NT 4.0 certifications. I think the word premature sums up this Microsoft move nicely.

Over the past few weeks, various grassroots efforts have arisen, all aimed at changing Microsoft's decision to rapidly end NT 4.0 certification. Although I've been asked to take the baton and chide Microsoft for this additional attempt to hasten the demise of Windows NT 4.0, I haven't done so for a variety of reasons. Although Microsoft was clearly wrong on the MSDN issue, its stance on the certification process is far more defensible. I just didn't see a positive outcome to this particular fight.

That hasn't stopped people from trying, of course. Last week, in an open letter to Microsoft, Coriolis Group CEO Keith Weiskamp expressed his concerns about Microsoft's discontinuation of the NT 4.0 certification. And, although Weiskamp is to be saluted for his attempt, Microsoft's response to his open letter explains the stance that made it clear to me that this was a losing battle. "To ensure that the MCSE certification is recognized as a leading IT professional credential with value and credibility, it is critical that MCSEs be up to date on the most advanced technology available," Microsoft wrote in its response. "We expect any individuals who choose to certify in the MCSE track to assume a leadership role in helping their employers or clients stay competitive. And maintaining current certification shows that those individuals are fully equipped with the needed skills to meet that challenge. MCSEs are leaders in their field—not followers."

I wrote more about this issue in WinInfo UPDATE last week. For a full account, please check out the WinInfo Web site.

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