D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Microsoft Forcing Dev/Partners Hands on Win 8 Through Certification

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 2:35 AM

I remember 2.5 years ago when Microsoft dropped a bomb on the Microsoft Partner community: all Gold competencies would require .NET 4 based premiere certifications (MCPD). Problem was, this gave a window of about 6 months for partners to update their employees’ certifications. At the place I was working, I put together an aggressive plan and we were able to attain the certs needed.

Microsoft is always open that the certification requirements will change as the industry changes. .NET 1.0 certifications are useless here in 2012, and rightfully so they’ve been retired for a long time now. But now we’re seeing a new tactic by Microsoft – shifting gears away from certifications that speak to what industry needs and more to the Windows 8 agenda.

Consider that currently the premiere development certification is the Microsoft Certified Professional Developer, which comes in three flavours – Web, Windows, and Azure. All require WCF and Data Access exams, as well as one that deals with the associated base technologies (ASP.NET, WinForms/WPF, Azure), and one that ties all three together in a solution-based exam. For Microsoft-based organizations, these skills aren’t just valid but necessary in building Microsoft applications.

But the MCPD is being replaced with our old friend Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD). So far, Microsoft has only released two types of MCSD – Web and Windows Store Apps.

Windows Store Apps?!

In a push to move developers to create WinRT-based applications, desktop development is now considered a second-class citizen in the eyes of Redmond. Also interesting are the language options for the exams: HTML5 and C#. Sorry VB folks, its time to embrace curly braces whether they be JavaScript or C#.

Consider too the skills being assessed for the Windows Store Apps:

Get your MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using HTML5
Exam 480: Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3plusExam 481: Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using HTML5 and JavaScriptplusExam 482: Advanced Windows Store App Development Using HTML5 and JavaScript

Get your MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using C#

Exam 483: Programming in C#plusExam 484: Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C#plusExam 485: Advanced Windows Store App Development Using C#

*Image Source: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/mcsd-windows-store-apps.aspx Nov 21/2012

If you look at the skills being tested in each exam, you’ll find that skills like WCF and Data Access are downplayed compared to things like integrating Charms, facilitating Search, programming for the microphone and camera – all very Windows 8 focussed items. Where this becomes maddening is that Microsoft is still pushing Windows 7 with enterprise clients. According to a ZDNet article, Microsoft wants to see Windows 7 on 70% of enterprise desktops by mid 2013. Assuming they somehow meet that (its a pretty lofty goal), there’s years of traditional desktop-based development that will still be required at some level.

For those thinking they’ll just write and stick with the MCPD certification, note that most exams that go towards that certification will be retired at the end of July 2013! (Read the small print). And while details haven’t been finalized, its a safe bet that MCPD certifications eventually won’t count towards Gold-level competencies in the Microsoft Partner program.

What this means for Microsoft Partners and Developers is that certification for desktop development is going to be limited to Windows Store Apps unless Microsoft re-introduces a traditional desktop (WPF) based MCSD cert.

Web Application Development – It’s Not All Bad

There’s big changes on the web side of certification, but I actually see these changes as being for the good! Check out the new exam requirements for MCSD – Web Applications:

Get your MCSD: Web Applications certification

Exam 480: Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3 plusExam 486: Developing ASP.NET 4.5 MVC Web Applications plusExam 487: Developing Windows Azure and Web Services

*Image Source: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/cert-mcsd-web-applications.aspx Nov 21, 2012

We now *start* with HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3! Now I’m sure that these will be slanted towards web development in IE, and I can hear designers everywhere bemoaning the CSS/IE combination. Still, I applaud Microsoft for adopting HTML5 as the go-to web technology and requiring certified developers to prove they have skills in the basics of web dev.

The fact that the second exam clearly states “MVC Web Applications” shows that Web Forms is truly legacy and deprecated. That’s not to say there aren’t those out there that are still supporting or (for whatever reason) doing new dev with Web Forms, but this move by Microsoft is telling the community they better get on the MVC bandwagon if they want to stay current. Fantastic!

And of course Azure needs to be here as well, and this is where the Microsoft agenda fits in. It’s no secret that there’s been a huge push in getting developers on to Azure. I don’t see this as being a bad thing either, as cloud computing (whether Azure, private, or 3rd party) is a necessary skill for developers to have here in 2012.

The cynic in me realizes that the HTML5/JavaScript/CSS push wouldn’t be as prominent though if not for the Windows 8 Store App play, where HTML5 is a first class citizen (and an available language for the MCSD Windows Store App cert). In this case, the desktop developers loss is the web developers gain.

Get Ready for Changes

In addition to the changes in certifications, the Microsoft Partner competencies are going through changes as well. Web and Software Development are being merged into a single competency, meaning that licenses you would have received from having both as Gold are reduced. Other competencies are either being removed or changed, as are the exam requirements.

In the same way that we’re seeing faster release cycles from Microsoft, so too will we see the Microsoft Partner Program and MS Certifications evolve faster than ever before. Many of us got caught in the last wave of changes, but this time we can see the wave coming – and it looks pretty big!


# re: Microsoft Forcing Dev/Partners Hands on Win 8 Through Certification

Maybe we should consider 3rd-Party certifications, or (gasp) realize what "certifications" really are... 11/21/2012 2:46 AM | Peter Ritchie

# re: Microsoft Forcing Dev/Partners Hands on Win 8 Through Certification

Just remember that in the context of the Microsoft Partner Network and Microsoft Partners attaining competencies, certifications are a huge deal. Here's the equation:

Certifications = Competencies
Competencies = MSDN Licenses

At a former gig, we looked at the cost in licenses we'd incur if we didn't update our certifications and meet the new competency requirements. The number was $250k.

D 11/21/2012 4:22 AM | D'Arcy from Winnipeg

# re: Microsoft Forcing Dev/Partners Hands on Win 8 Through Certification

Wow! I'm glad Microsoft is a sunset company and a sunset technology that I'll never have to get involved with it. 11/21/2012 12:26 PM | Rob

# re: Microsoft Forcing Dev/Partners Hands on Win 8 Through Certification

Not sure how it could be that much, we have an msdn sub for every dev which licenses all the dev tools we need and we have no certs, it sure isn't 250k....

It might be valuable from a Microsoft partner perspective but let's be honest, MS certs are a joke. They're no better a measure of a devs competency than whether they prefer Starbucks or Tim hortons.

Real world experience over certs all day long.

Oh and sunset company and technology? Hahahahaha. Let me guess you write php ;) 11/23/2012 2:30 PM | Chris D

# re: Microsoft Forcing Dev/Partners Hands on Win 8 Through Certification

Chris - VS.NET Premium with MSDN is $6119 CDN. For $250,000 that would cover 40 developers. And that's *Premium*. If you want VS.NET Ultimate with MSDN, the cost PER DEVELOPER is $13,299!

Not sure if you guys just have a small dev group or if your IT management is doing "creative accounting" when doling out the licenses, but yes - it can definitely get extremely costly to outfit a dev group with MSDN licenses.

Note that extra server licenses (server, Exchange, etc.), productivity (Office, Project, Visio, etc.), and other non-dev licenses aren't covered. That's another way that certifications can help - beyond the dev groups (i.e. your accounting folks won't have an MSDN license assigned to them for Excel).

Source for the pricing: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-ca/subscriptions/buy.aspx

D 11/23/2012 4:32 PM | D'Arcy from Winnipeg

# re: Microsoft Forcing Dev/Partners Hands on Win 8 Through Certification

I actually don't know how they handle the licenses, I just know we've been audited by MS more than once and are compliant.

I assume the prices drop substantially when you're a partner? 11/24/2012 5:15 PM | Chris

# re: Microsoft Forcing Dev/Partners Hands on Win 8 Through Certification

Chris - That's the point of partners getting their staff certified. Certifications translate to Competencies. Competencies translate to *free* licenses from Microsoft. 11/28/2012 3:49 AM | D'Arcy from Winnipeg

# re: Microsoft Forcing Dev/Partners Hands on Win 8 Through Certification

Microsoft keeps screwing me over. I was doing my MCSD in VB6 and then came .Net. So I did the MCSD in .Net. Spotting the trend in the market I switched to C# and now even C# is being pushed out and I HAVE to learn HTML5 and CSS3 and JavaScript, yet MVC 4.5 runs very happily on C# 5.

I should have become a doctor. Better money. Better hours. And the human body doesn't say f**k you! and change every 2 years. I'm sure that in a million years we'll still naturally have 2 legs each. 3/14/2013 8:35 AM | Annoyed

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