The move comes hard on the heels of this week's decision to delay the imposition of new enterprise licence arrangements.
Microsoft had angered MCSE certified engineers with the news that, to maintain their accreditation, they would have to retrain and take Windows 2000 MCSE exams before 31 December 2001. This effectively scrapped the MCSE at NT4 level certification.
The company's change of heart is likely to come as relief to the 12,000 UK engineers who have yet to take the Windows 2000 training and examinations. However, it has upset some of the 50,000 people worldwide who have already upgraded their training.
"This is going to upset a lot of people," said Brian Weller, the director of US-based training school TMC Technology. "A lot of people didn't finish their 4.0 because they heard it was going to be decertified."
Ayesha Okhai, Microsoft's skills business manager, said Microsoft has plans to differentiate the two levels of MCSE by issuing separate certificates. "We will provide an early achiever card for people who have spent time and money on Windows 2000 certification."
Okhai said she thought engineers with the higher Windows 2000 certification would be more attractive to potential IT recruiters.
One reason for Microsoft's change of heart has been the longevity of the NT4 platform. While the company would like users to run the latest Windows 2000/XP operating system and have engineers certified for these platforms, it has had to concede that users still want NT4.
Microsoft had carried out a number of surveys among its customers. "We found there is still demand for NT4 deployments," Okhai said.
The policy change makes the MCSE certification similar to certification programmes from some other vendors such as the Novell Certified Novell Administrator (CNA) certification. CNAs do not lose their certification if they are not trained on the latest Novell OS.