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New Windows Means New Windows Certifications, Right?

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Although new Windows desktop and server operating systems -- and their corresponding exams and certifications -- are due by the end of 2001, the impact on someone seeking MCP, MCSE, or MCDBA certification will be minimal. In the wake of .NET, however, major changes to the MCSD certification are expected. Ed Tittel covers the current and future state of certifications in this article.

New Windows Means New Windows Certifications, Right?

In October 2001—the 25th, to be as precise as Microsoft has been—Windows XP (short for eXPerience, or so we read repeatedly) Professional is scheduled for release to the public. The beta version of XP Professional has been available for some time now, with a release candidate coming soon. In fact, all builds since 2496 have included the terminology RC1, short for "Release Candidate 1." As it happens, Build 2505 is the real RC1, released on June 29.

On the other hand, the upcoming server-oriented release is more shrouded in mystery. We've heard Microsoft and others call this code base "Whistler Server," "Windows 2002 Server," and even "Server.NET." For the sake of simplicity, we call it "Server.NET" in this article, in keeping with Microsoft's terminology in the MCSE FAQ. Release dates for Server.NET have been less precise than those for XP Professional but seem to fall in a range between November 2001 and the middle of 2002. Only time will tell when this event will actually occur.

Anticipating New Microsoft Exams

When it comes to certification, if experience is any guide, Microsoft will release a beta version of an exam analogous to exam 70-210, "Installing, Configuring, and Administering Windows 2000 Professional," for Windows XP Professional in December 2001 or January 2002. The commercial version of that exam should follow within another 60 to 90 days. In fact, as you can read in the online document Frequently Asked Questions About MCSE, Microsoft claims that the Windows XP Professional exam will be released before the end of the year. Given an October 25 release date, however, we're skeptical that a commercial version of the exam could be released before the year's end, unless Microsoft releases the beta version of the exam before releasing the final commercial version of the product (which would break with tradition but would make this self-proclaimed deadline feasible).

Likewise, the commercial release of Server.NET should spawn beta and commercial versions of exams analogous to exams 70-215, 70-216, and 70-217 at a minimum, with other exams likely to be updated for the new server operating system some time thereafter. These pending events lead to a common litany of questions about Microsoft certifications, most of which have to do with the impact of another new Windows release on existing certifications and about the timing and availability of new exams.

Although Microsoft still plays its cards close to its vest, it has been unusually forthcoming about the impact of these pending Windows releases. That means that we can report with some confidence about the potential impact on some Microsoft certifications but must speculate about that impact on others. For clarity, we'll distinguish statements based on Microsoft policies and plans from statements based on speculation, however well-educated our guesses on such topics might be. That way, you can separate what we think we know from what we know we think!

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