Microsoft's New Vista, Office, Exchange Certs on Track

Right on the heels of the releases of Windows Vista and Office 2007 to manufacturing, Microsoft has released some details on its new-generation tracks for those software releases. Lutz Ziob, director of the Microsoft Learning Group, announced the new tracks today at the company's IT Forum conference in Barcelona, Spain.
The next-generation tracks follow a simpler path: one exam at the Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist (MCTS or TS) level that focuses on Vista skills, and one or two more at the new Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP or PRO) level that focus on job role.

The first exam, now in beta, is currently called 70-620 TS: Windows Vista Client Configuration.
"The new exam will be the entry point for all that is Windows Vista," said Keith Loeber, group product manager of Microsoft's certification group. (And while this report might toss out names liberally, Loeber explained that names for many of the tracks and exams have yet to be determined as of this writing.)
At the next level up, the track splits in two. The Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Enterprise Support track, says Loeber, is equivalent to the current MCDST, while another track, currently called MCITP: Consumer Support, goes in a new direction for Microsoft. "It will really focus on technicians that work in the retail environment selling to a home user or a consumer crowd."
Only one exam is currently planned for the MCITP: Consumer Support track, and it's a mouthful: 70-623 PRO: Supporting and Troubleshooting Applications on a Windows Vista Client for Consumer Support Technicians. The other track, MCITP: Enterprise Support, has two: 70-622 PRO: Supporting and Troubleshooting Applications on a Windows Vista Client for Enterprise Support Technicians; and an exam to be named later, but which the company says will test skills based on Enterprise Support.
For those who already possess an MCDST, Loeber says that an upgrade path will be made available, with details forthcoming.
If the surprise is that the track appears simpler than its predecessors, that's because Loeber says the framework really tries to align itself with job roles. So, rather than the seven exams in the current MCSE program and several entry points into the premium certifications -- which included a mix of either Windows XP or Windows 2003 knowledge on top of specializing in a technology set such as deploying or designing messaging, security or database administration -- the new Vista track requires only two or three exams to complete and the track focuses exclusively on Windows Vista deployments. 
"At the TS level we have the technology skills, and the Enterprise IT Professional level we add the job role," as well as the addition of another job role track for the consumer side, he said.
Loeber says the group is already contemplating how Windows "Longhorn" Server will fit into the new-generation framework a year from now, but said that development was too raw to reveal at the moment.
Exams 70-620 is currently in beta, with availability expected in January 2007. Exams 70-622 and 70-623 are expected to be beta tested in the next few weeks, with live versions in the first quarter of 2007.
The Exchange 2007 track follows a similar, Vista-like pattern, with a focus on skills and then job roles. The MCTS level, which can be referred to at the moment as the MCTS: Exchange Server 2007 title, requires one exam: 70-236 TS: Exchange Server 2007 Configuration. On the MCITP level, the group so far has developed one track, MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator, with two exams: 70-237 PRO: Designing Messaging Solutions with Exchange Server 2007 and 70-238 PRO: Deploying Messaging Solutions with Exchange Server 2007.
"The real win for the Exchange folks here is that it, currently, in order to get any recognition in terms of a logo, you have to take four exams to get the Exchange specialization for the the new round, you only have to take one to get the MCTS," said Loeber. Likewise, for the seven exams needed to complete the MCSE: Messaging, Leober says "now you only have to take three [for the MCITP].
"We focused it on the Exchange administrator role, rather than you having to take all the Windows stuff first and then moving to Exchange," he added.
"When we rolled this out to a session at Tech Ed, we got a round of applause, which is unusual for a certification," said Microsoft Learning Group Program Manager Rob Linsky. "The fact that made the track tighter and much more specific to the needs of the audience, I think, was appreciated."
Because the 2007 Office System encompasses a set of technologies, the formula does get a bit more complicated here. The Office IT Professional track contains a number of TS entry points: MCTS Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, with one exam whose name is to be decided later; MCTS: Office SharePoint Server 2007 (exam name TBD); MCTS: Deploying and Maintaining Vista Client and Office 2007 Desktops (exam TBD); and several TS tracks for Project (not to be confused with a project management track that the company announced a few weeks ago), Office Live Communications Server 2007 and Windows Mobile. And other TS tracks and exams may follow in the months to come.
The Professional Developer side has similar exams and tracks, but adds a TS certification and exam for Visual Studio Tools for Office.
Loeber explains that the group's goal here is a bit more difficult, since they're trying to line up the IT Professional and Professional Developer titles under Office System within the Microsoft Partner competencies, particularly for Information Worker. "All of those [exams] are directly applicable to the Partner program, so one or more of the exams will be required."
Microsoft plans to hold two LiveMeeting events on Dec. 6, to introduce the Windows Vista certifications and exams. Click here for details.

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.


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