Thousands of New Zealand IT workers stand to lose their Microsoft certified software engineer status if they do not sit a new exam.
Microsoft retires its NT 4.0 certificate on December 31, replacing it with a Windows 2000-based certificate.
Christchurch-based Trike Technologies describe the change as "an MCSE timebomb", as there may not be enough time for current MCSEs to sit the new exam.
But Microsoft says it always replaces old qualifications when new products are introduced and has already deferred the retirement of NT 4.0.
Trike, which trains companies such as Tait Electronics and Datacom, has launched "super course" (costing $2499 ex GST) it says will accelerate training based on a month's teaching plus mentoring, preparation and hands-on experience. To upgrade from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000 would normally take four exams, but Trike says it can achieve this in just one.
However, both Trike and Microsoft warn the upgrades are not easy and if candidates fail one section they must do the whole course again, which Trike says may cost $7000 to $10,000.
"Microsoft has chosen to make it a harder qualification ... You get the impression they are doing it to seek some dosh, but nonetheless Windows NT and 2000 are significantly different so Microsoft had to introduce some new forms of training," says Trike marketing manager Andrew Johnson.
Microsoft channel and business marketing manager Alex Morcom says Windows 2000 is more complex with a new directory structure so it needs a new exam, one demanded by its customers. Morcom says techies should keep their qualifications up to date and the new exam reflects this.
Microsoft says an accelerated exam, to be offered by Microsoft certified trainers, will be free until December 31 to eligible candidates who have sat and passed the three Windows NT 4.0 core exams. Outside this scheme, the exam costs around $180 and any training is extra.
Morcom says this exam is as challenging as the four core Windows 2000 exams it replaces, and candidates must also know the material covered by the three Windows NT 4.0 exams.
"Feedback from MCSEs indicates that maintaining the high standards for certification reassures the industry that the MCSE certification can be valued and really does test people's knowledge and ability to work with their chosen system," he says.
While convenient, the exam can only be sat once. If a candidate fails, they must sit the four separate exams, Morcom says.