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If the deadline is not extended, some experts predict that half the UK's Microsoft-certified systems engineers could lose their accreditation on New Years Day, 2002.
The software giant is scrapping the Windows NT4 exam and has told Microsoft-certified systems engineers (MCSEs) at NT4-level that they have until 31 December to pass the new tests on Windows 2000 to retain their MCSE certification.
The company introduced schemes such as the "Early Achiever" identification for candidates completing Windows 2000 MCSE before 31 October.
But a combination of tight deadlines and the economic slowdown has meant thousands of MCSE certified engineers have not taken the necessary exams. Industry experts say this could force Microsoft to push back the de-certification deadline.
One industry source told CW360 that at the beginning of 2001, the UK had 18,000 NT4 MCSEs, of which 6,000 have now upgraded to Windows 2000.
"That leaves a gap of 12,000," he said. "Microsoft has a lot of numbers to pick up. Getting half of them upgraded by the end of the year would be a good number, but that still leaves a shortage of 9,000. I believe that will push Microsoft into extending the de-certification deadline by six months."
Jon Shepstone, business manager for Windows, hardware and communications at QA training said: "It took over four years to get 18,000 NT MCSEs. It's a very high expectation to expect the whole population to migrate to Windows 2000 by the end of the year."
Microsoft may extend the fast track, 70-240 accelerated exam, "beyond the December deadline", Shepstone said.
Microsoft refused to give out figures on the number of professionals who have upgraded their MCSE credential, but did not rule out the option that the deadline for de-certification could be extended.
Ayesha Okhai, Microsoft's skills business manager, said: "Microsoft is very happy with the number of people who have upgraded their MCSE credential to the Windows 2000 platform. That said, we are always assessing our offerings and evaluating whether there are ways to improve the MCP programme to better meet the needs of our customers."
She added: "We will make any changes that we or our customers feel necessary."