Microsoft says Windows 2000 will be out in October. Sure. As one training provider says, “When I actually see the product in my hands, then I know it’s shipped.” But while we’re all busy rolling our eyes and checking our watches, training providers have some serious decisions to make.

With that “official” shipping date looming nearer—convincingly or not—when should training companies expect a surge in demand for Windows 2000 training?

Everybody’s got a theory. Some companies are already offering courses based on Beta 3. Others are prepared to bide their time till there’s some real demand, not just industry hype. We spoke to three providers; each company offers training for folks preparing for the MCSE, but each approaches training from a slightly different perspective. Perhaps it’s not surprising that in the end, we got three very different responses.

Get real
“The industry’s feeling of a rush to Windows 2000 is just more of the usual Redmond propaganda.”

So says Barry Kaufman, who trains MCSE hopefuls in two-week boot camps for NT School . Kaufman predicts it will be a year before IT professionals begin signing up for courses in any great numbers.

Why? “It will be a year before even brave companies use Win2K systems as their sole mission-critical servers,” he says. Meanwhile, existing NT 4.0 infrastructures will still require the same level of support. And, he points out, “Y2K issues will also keep people tied up during the first quarter.”

From a certification perspective, Kaufman adds that the latest educated guesses put the first beta tests coming out in March, going prime time somewhere in the late summer of 2000. Based on those predictions, he says, “I project that about a year from now, folks will have to be making a choice about whether it is best to get certified with Win2K, or whether they should just keep to the NT4 path they have grown to know.”

For now, Kaufman says, anyone looking to get MCSE certified had better get on the stick and not wait around for the W2K certification path to develop. That means training companies shouldn’t look for interest to slack off in NT 4.0 certification anytime soon.

Go beta
At QuickStart Technologies , a California-based training and consulting firm, they’re already providing classroom training on W2K for their corporate clients. “I think the rush has started, even though it’s in Beta 3,” says Mike Singleton, managing systems engineer. (Microsoft has now released what it’s calling “release candidates” for public testing.) QuickStart is busy teaching instructor-led prerelease classes from the Microsoft Official Curriculum, and demand is brisk for #1560 (Updating Support Skills from Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 to Microsoft Windows 2000) and #1561 (Designing a Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure). Also in high demand is #1579, an accelerated course that aims to squeeze all the material from 1560 and 1561 into a single one-week class.

Unlike Kaufman, Singleton is already seeing demand for Win2K classes beginning to squeeze out NT 4.0.

“These next five months we’ll be definitely offering fewer NT 4.0 classes than we have in the previous year, just because there are so many 2000 classes,” Singleton says. “Something’s got to give. And yes, it does seem that the demand for the Windows 2000 classes is much greater right now than for the 4.0. 4.0’s been out there for a long time.”

To sum it up: “I think there’ll still be a demand [for 4.0],” he says, “but you’re definitely going to see in the next few months that everybody’s going to start going to Windows 2000, I believe, as far as training.”

The TBT perspective
Stepping out of the world of instructor-led training and into the realm of TBT, you find yet a third approach. NETg provides media-based courses (delivered via CD-ROM, LAN, and two flavors of Web deployment). For this company, the launch date for Windows 2000 training lies somewhere between “see you in a year” and “already doing that.” NETg doesn’t do beta, for one thing. The company is planning several course series for a November launch, all based on the Microsoft Official Curriculum. But that date could change, depending (naturally) on the Microsoft Official Release Date.

“There are a number of people who expect the training to be released the same day as the application,” says Bill Bonner, associate director of marketing communications. (In addition to certification courses, NETg will provide other forms of Win2K training, such as courses for executives and managerial folk.) For several reasons, he says, instant training is impossible. “We typically try to get a course cycle 12 to 17 weeks after introduction of technology, roughly.”

As for the question of NT 4.0, Bonner—unlike QuickStart’s Singleton—doesn’t see the release of Windows 2000 making much of a dent. “We always notice a spike in interest in a new technology, but it’s not necessarily at the expense of the older courses,” he says. “There are enough organizations out there with maybe a step back on technology—not the latest release but the one just behind—that continue to bring people into their organization and need to continue training.”

I think, you think
Seems like no matter how many providers you talk to, you’ll hear something different every time. Nobody really knows when Windows 2000 will ship. And everybody’s got to play to his or her own strengths. Ultimately, the answer to the question of a Windows 2000 training demand seems to depend on what sector of the industry you’re coming from and whether your company bothers with training on beta packages.

And who knows: Maybe there’s a little Magic Eight Ball viewing going on in some of those corporate offices.
Tell us your organization’s view of Windows 2000 training. Are you training from the beta packages, waiting for the release, or simply waiting for the storm to hit? If you’d like to comment on this article or share your stories please post a note at the bottom of the page or send usa note .