Coriolis, Microsoft spar over Windows 2000 certification

Keith Weiskamp, the CEO of The Coriolis Group, a publisher of technical books, CD-ROM, and "Visual Developer" magazine, has written an open letter to Microsoft Corporation, expressing his concerns about the Windows 2000 certification program, which seems to be pushing out the Windows NT 4.0 program at a vastly accelerated rate. Like the issues with MSDN that I raised previously in WinInfo, Microsoft's decision to quickly retire the NT 4.0 exams and replace them with Windows 2000 versions takes on a more sinister tone when you consider the company's vested financial interest in moving its entire support system along to the new OS as quickly as possible. And while I had considered participating in a similar campaign for the certification process, I publicly expressed my concerns about the fate of such a jihad in Windows 2000 Magazine UPDATE last month, because I felt that the chances of success were far less likely than they were with the more clear-cut MSDN issue. Indeed, Microsoft has already responded to Weiskamp's letter, basically explaining its position without offering to make any changes.

"The changes that you've recently announced, such as limiting enrollment for beta exams, restricting access to the accelerated exam for existing MCSEs (Microsoft Certified System Engineers) to a single try, and limiting the timelines during which MCSEs must 'upgrade' their certifications are unfair to the community," Weiskamp writes in his open letter. "Based on feedback from our large community of readers, we also believe that these requirements will significantly impact the success of the Windows 2000 MCSE program. The steps you are about to take with your new program could impact the careers of over 220,000 current MCSEs, and the countless professionals who are studying to become certified under your program."

"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 responded. "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."

Weiskamp also tackles the "paper certification" issue: Many people feel that the NT 4.0 certification was far too easy to achieve, and everyone in the IT industry has stories of people that attended one-day crash courses to bone up on a particular test, and then passed that very test the next day, without really becoming an expert in the topic. As a result, Microsoft made the Windows 2000 certification process more rigorous.

"We understand that you feel obliged to deliver an effective training and certification program that doesn't simply reward 'paper MCSEs,'" Weiskamp says. "To that end we strongly support the notion that certification programs should be challenging, and that they should measure an individual's ability to perform on the job as accurately as possible. But we also believe that such programs should be fair and open, and not simply provide a leverage point to push people into upgrading software and systems as soon as possible, or before their employers are ready to adopt the latest version of Windows software."

For more information, please read Keith Weiskamp's open letter to Microsoft.

Microsoft's response tackles a number of issues that Weiskamp and others have raised about the move to Windows 2000 certification, including the invitation-only beta exams, the one-test opportunity, and more. It's a compelling read that's also available on the Coriolis Web site

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