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Microsoft's Certification Subway Map and the Missing Windows App

Microsoft's Certification Subway Map and the Missing Windows App
Credit: Microsoft

Imagine my surprise and delight when I recently visited the MCP certification page to see these words "Download the free interactive map to chart your path through Microsoft training, exams, and certifications." Imagine my disappointment when, upon following those instructions, I observed that clicking the "Get the app" tile in the Microsoft Store produced an information icon that reads "Training and Certification Guide is currently not available," and no such app was to be had. Upon closer inspection of the Microsoft Certification subway map, I think I know why. Please, let me explain... and indulge in some hopefully interesting speculation.

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft refers to the very nice graphic that steps through its various certification exams and the credentials to which they lead as a "subway map." In fact, it does an excellent job of using the well-founded layout and design principles used to inform such maps of real subway systems (think London Tube, the NYC subway, or the Washington Metro, among many other such examples) to lay out its entire and almost-current offerings in a clear and concise way that's easy to follow and understand. The only thing better, in fact, than a masterful graphic like this one would be an interactive version that allows users to download it and dive into various information points along the way to dig into the details. From Microsoft's own language, I assumed that there would be such things as course descriptions and sign-up info, ditto for certification exams, home pages for specific credentials, and so forth. A simply fabulous way to package up and deliver the program to IT pros so they can explore and learn more using simple visual navigation.

But the Windows app is currently unavailable with no real explanation provided. However, looking at the top line of the subway map, notice that it shows the MCSA for Windows 8 leading to the MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps. Of course, since July 29, 2015, there's been a new flagship desktop OS available from Microsoft: Windows 10. And now, in addition to the MCSA: Windows 8, there's also an MCSA: Windows 10, with a new exam called 70-697: Configuring Windows Devices to bring the older 8.1 oriented materials up to par with Windows 10. Furthermore, a quick hop to the MCSA: Windows 8 page informs readers that this certification will be retiring in July 2016, which means that the old desktop OS cert is giving way to the new one about one year after the new OS made its debut.

My explanation for the missing app is that its developers are no doubt busy working on a new subway map and a new interactive app to go with it. Consider this, too: Windows Server 2016 delivery has already been promised for sometime in the second half of 2016, and a new version of SQL Server is also on its way. The whole subway map is getting ready to accommodate a bunch of new stops along its various tracks, and I imagine that while the names of some of its lines won't change much, the labels for many of those stops will have to change to reflect new exam IDs, new training courses and so forth.

I expect to see the app back in the Microsoft Store as soon as Microsoft Learning is willing to disclose all the details that the new subway map will contain. When might this happen? It certainly won't be any earlier than late July 2016 (the current rumored release date for the Redstone release of Windows 10, and possibly also the release date for Windows Server 2016, SQL Server, and so forth). It could even be a bit later than that, because of lag time in catching up with the last-minute contortions and changes that so often precede a big wave of releases. Stay tuned: we'll see what happens together.

Ed Tittel

Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.