In a development that could dramatically change the ability of companies to get support for Windows, more than half of all MCSEs (Microsoft Certified Software Engineers) worldwide seem likely to lose their certifications by the end of the year. This is due to a Microsoft requirement, announced late last year, that those that have passed its NT exams must now complete new Windows 2000 exams by December 31.

Those in the know say the pool of MCSEs, which numerous companies rely on to support massive new projects, is at risk of a major depletion.

"If you were a CEO, and you heard you were going to lose more than 50 per cent of, say, your marketing partners or distributors, you'd be upset," says Harry Brelsford, an MCSE and author of MCSE Consulting Bible.

Anne Marie McSweeney, Microsoft's director of certification skills and assessment, says there are presently over 400,000 MCSEs worldwide. She also notes more than one million individuals hold the less-demanding rank of MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional). Value-added resellers that do not employ at least one MCSE or the equivalent lose their Gold-level status as Microsoft Partners.

McSweeney says only 13 per cent of MCPs have attained Windows 2000 certification so far. When asked the figure for MCSEs, she said, "We're not quite ready to release that yet." Whatever the number is, it appears to be embarrassingly low.

A source close to Microsoft Australia says a mere 326 out of almost 10,000 MCSEs are certified for Windows 2000. "Microsoft Australia quietly estimates they'll lose 80 to 90 per cent of their Partners at the end of the year -- virtually their entire channel," my contact says. "This is reminiscent of when the new requirements for Microsoft Certified Solution Developers came into effect [in 1996] and, the number of MCSDs worldwide dropped from over 30,000 to under 10,000 overnight."

An unknown number of MCSEs will try for recertification. Michael Domingo, Web editor of MCP Magazine, conducted an unscientific survey of MCSEs in June. About 10 per cent said they were already certified for Windows 2000, and another 52 per cent said they'd try to meet the requirements by the end of the year.

"But getting through the battery of seven exams is going to be difficult," Domingo said in an interview. "A lot of folks are not adopting Windows 2000 as quickly as Microsoft hoped. They're the same ones wondering why Microsoft retired the NT version of the track."

When I asked whether or not Microsoft might de-certify 50 per cent or more of its MCSEs on January 1, Microsoft's McSweeney replied, "I don't think that's an unreasonable number."

Companies that depend on a steady flow of trained people might start looking elsewhere.

Brian Livingston has authored a series of MCSE exam crib notes including Windows Me Secrets (IDG Books), and might be able to help you pass the next seven exams, contact him on

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