If Cars Were Like Windows…

New frontiers for certification

Auntie had just penned the title of this month’s column when a telltale whiff of aftershave came wafting over her left shoulder. It was shortly followed by dear Fabio’s voice. “You’re not going to do that old schtick about cars getting 500 miles per gallon but blowing up every 50 miles, are you? Well of inspiration run dry?”

Au contraire, dear Fabio. I thought I’d focus on the certification angle. Let’s look forward a few years to the time when a cash-flush Microsoft buys one of the big three automakers. The effects would ripple through both organizations, and soon enough, we’d have Microsoft Certified Auto Repair Administrators. Imagine, then, that you take your new 2007 Screamo into a Microsoft Authorized Service Center to have a suspicious noise diagnosed…

MCARA Technician: Well, I have to say, it’s a puzzler.

Customer: But wait—the certificate on the wall says you passed the Screamo certification.

Tech: Ah…yes. But that was two years ago, on the 2005 Screamo. Microsoft’s rules say that I don’t have to actually recertify on every new model year.

Customer: Wouldn’t it be better for your customers if you did? Aren’t you planning to take the 2007 Screamo exam?

Tech (hurriedly): Sure I am! But it’s only been eight months since the model came out. The exams aren’t ready yet.

Customer (sighing): Well, let’s get back to my car. Your advertising says you have full support of Microsoft to help your customers. Just what good does that do me if you can’t tell me what the noise is?

Tech: And I do have all the support resources I could possibly need. Look, right here: It’s the Microsoft Driver’s Network DVD set, packed full of helpful articles and troubleshooting tips. And here, see inside the glove box on your car…here’s the event log. It says you’re having 800740d6 errors.

Customer: Well, what does that mean?

Tech (looking sheepish): Um, well…I searched MSDN, and there aren’t actually any Knowledge Base articles that refer to that number.

Customer (exasperated): So what good is your MCARA if you can’t fix my problem?

Tech (draws self up to full height): Why, lots of good! I can show you how to put the key in the ignition and start the car. I can integrate the car with a roof luggage rack or a small trailer. I can demonstrate how to change the seat covers. I can…

Customer (interrupting): Why can’t you figure out where that noise is coming from?

Tech: Well, there aren’t any funny noise objectives on the exam. So I didn’t have to study that part of the product.

Customer (fuming): I give up. Is there anyone else here who knows more about the Screamo than you do?

Tech: You could talk to my boss. He’s a Microsoft Certified Auto Repair Engineer, so he knows way more than I do.

Customer: Great! Where is he?

Tech: He’s at a Microsoft partner event, learning about the 2009 Screamo. He’ll be back Tuesday, I think.

Fade out, to the sounds of the customer’s head banging on the counter…

Now, some people would say that this little scenario isn’t so different from visiting an automotive dealer today. Others might point out that operating systems are much more complex than internal combustion engines, so it just stands to reason that we can’t know everything about them. But still others will wonder why anyone would accept such a half-hearted certification as proof of anything and will devise schemes to tell the paper MCARAs from those who actually grew up taking cars apart.

As for your dear Auntie, she smells Parmesan and basil mixing with the aftershave scent. The thought of fresh pesto on anything is enough to get me to leave this keyboard for a bit, and to be glad that the leasing agency takes care of the motor coach around here.

Where are the 500 mpg cars, anyhow? Are comparisons with real-world customer service unfair to MCSEs?

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Apr 19, 2004 Eccodragon OH

Another story about cars having MS operating systems - not as funny as others I have read. Why not a story about if WE had been created by MS??

Wed, Jan 14, 2004 ChicagoMCSE Anonymous

She still hasn't written a word worth reading in her entire tenure here at mcpmag. I am absolutely baffled at her continued presence. I sincerely hope that she is writing this column for free because I can then take solace in the fact that I'm getting exactly what I paid for - nothing. This column is neither illuminating, informative, or even remotely humourous and should be replaced with something of substance.

Mon, Jan 5, 2004 Scott Spiess Roseville, Ca

Nice...I got a good laugh from this one.

Fri, Jan 2, 2004 Sandy New Delhi, India

An excellent article. And yes I think that if you want to be a true MS troubleshooter then you better have a bit of the developer in you. You could drive a car without knowing how it works but then you wouldn't be susprised if you found yourself helpeless when it broke down, now would you? So why blame MS certified tech support if you did the equivalent of pouring sugar in your fuel tank? As far as the certified person being able to find the fault is concerned... well as I said, he has got to be a bit of a developer as well in addition to what he studied for in order to be able to guess what is wrong. This takes time and experience which are two qualities not necessarily needed for certification. So go figure!

Mon, Dec 22, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Getting an MCP entitles you know about the that program, not how to debug the operating system of problems? That is called a developer.

Hopefully, bug free software. And the software vendor then can't get tough! The product has to be supported for at least 2 years; otherwise the customer should be able to get his money back. If the vendor can prove that it is 100% free of bugs then they haven't got anything to worry about. But, I would make all software vendor provide 2-4 year free technical support to customer, otherwise prove that it is bug free. After 5 years you can say that the platform is stable, and less likey to have bugs, and support can be limited.

You would never sell a car, and say oh we are not sure which mix of car the brakes are going to fail on, but good luck. We will fix after the crash!!!

People aren't paying $4 for the software, and to say well we think it should work, is not really good enough.

Who keeps track of bugs in microsoft software? How many bugs for each OS, now that would be an interesting article or graph?

And then compare that to hardware products or items made worth $4. I wonder which one will have less problems!!!!

Make vendors be responisble like electrical good for the qualtity or sloppiness of their work.

I would make every software vendor responsible to contacting people within two years of purching a product to contact their customers about bugs or errors.

What is the consumer definition of faulty good, and what is the statue on returning said items if it is proven to be faulty?

Hmm can I send back my Windows 98, or Win2k, Window Me and get few hundred dollars back $$$$$$$$

Mon, Dec 22, 2003 Roger Wintery Ohio

Great comparison! I love it!
I will say in all fairness that we can't possibly know it all, but we should know a lot... :-) Right??

Mon, Dec 22, 2003 Michael Sunny Florida

How did Microsoft get out of the lawsuits from whoever patented various things like steering wheels, headlights, tires, etc.?

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