With some IS professionals fuming over Microsoft's plan to quickly phase out certification for Windows NT 4.0 - a move critics say could make it harder for some companies to find qualified IT staff - feeling is divided in Australia.
Microsoft has said its goal is merely to ensure that enough trained IS workers are available to support Windows 2000. But some critics see the plan, announced late last year, as an aggressive attempt to force IS professionals - and therefore customers - to upgrade to MS' new OS.
"Reducing or eliminating support for older versions is a common way to encourage' customers to upgrade to the latest version of an operating system. Reducing the pool of qualified technical support is an effective way to do this," said John Goodfriend, founder of US-based IT training company Lanop.
The Windows NT certification is part of the Microsoft Certification Program, an important tool that helps companies to identify skilled IS workers for hiring purposes. Engineers take classes at training centres and universities around the world, and then take a series of exams set by Microsoft to become what's known as a Microsoft Certified Solutions Engineer (MCSE).
Late last year, Microsoft quietly informed engineers studying for the Windows NT 4.0 MCSE that they must complete their exams by December 31 this year, in order to become certified. Microsoft also said it would retire the NT 4.0 certification at the end of 2001, meaning engineers qualified in that operating system will need to upgrade to the Windows 2000 MCSE to remain certified.
Like other vendors, Microsoft has always phased out exams for older software as a way of encouraging the industry to adopt more current versions. But the plan to phase out the NT 4.0 MCSE - which was announced even before Windows 2000 was released in February - is far more aggressive than anything attempted before, critics said. Exams for the Windows NT 3.51 MCSE, for example, were still being offered in June this year, five years after the software was released.
Steve Ross, general manager of Com Tech Education, argues that while the decision forces people to get 2000 certified, Microsoft is still being "pretty fair" about the process.
"People aren't happy. But they knew, and they had enough time," said Ross.
"We're still offering the NT 4.0 training next year even though there won't be certifications. A lot of companies don't certify their staff because they're afraid of losing them, so there's really no problem [for them] now," said Ross.
On the other hand, some local training centres are sensitive towards a growing industry resentment. With only 18 months left on the validity of MCSE NT 4.0 certifications, Greg Pownall, acting general manager of Drake Training Asia-Pacific, told ARN there were a number of disgruntled networking professionals in the industry.
"It's going to happen," said Pownall. "We're in the same boat as every C Tech and we believe there will be a gap."
While the accreditation may be inflaming some IS managers, training centres offering the Windows and NT4.0 MCSE are always ready to reap the benefits of yet another course, said Ross.
US Microsoft officials declined comment for this article.