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MCSA/E/D: Waiting for the Aftermarket

Not counting elements based on Windows Server 2008, Microsoft exams related to their newly-reissued MCSA, MCSE, and MCSD certifications have been available since June. I'm starting to field reader comments and inquiries along the lines of "When will training kits for these certs become available?" Here, "training kit" means a collection of study guides and/or Exam Crams for the individual topics in these mostly three-to-five exam credentials.

The three exams behind the MCSA: Windows Server 2012

Given that these certs weren't on the radar until April or May of this year, I hope it comes as no suprise to any readers that my basic answer to this question is "Not for a while yet." The reason for the delay is because writing any series of three to five books (or some multiple of that number, for those interested in full-fledged study guides, Exam Crams, practice tests, flash cards, and so forth and so on) simply takes time. And usually, publishers want to get somebody to take the beta exams and make sure that the content in their materials is at least in synch with what cert candidates are likely to encounter in a test center when they take those exams, if not somewhat better than that in their coverage.

In fact, one of the reasons why Exam Cram was such a huge hit when we first introduced it in 1997-98 was that we didn't try to get the books out at the same time as the certs became available. Indeed, we had no choice but to follow behind the curve, simply because we didn't even get the idea for the series until after the Windows NT 4.0 MCSE exams had been released (and widely published into). That's not normally considered an advantage in the publications game, where "first to market" can sometimes solidify a grip on market share, but we turned it to our advantage because we got to work from the latest and greatest production versions of the post-beta (real thing) cert exams in designing content and coverage for those books.

From what I see on Amazon, which is pretty good about pre-announcing publications and providing working advance publication dates to go with them, you won't see many book bundles for MCSE, MCSA, and MCSD until late 2012 and into the first quarter for 2013. Right now, in fact, only Microsoft Press is announcing plans for such collections -- as, for example, with their Cert Prep Pack: MCSA Windows Server 2012 bundle -- but I expect to see my sponsors here (Pearson, Que, and Exam Cram) all jump into this game reasonably soon, along with other usual players on the MS certification front, such as Sybex, Syngress, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill.

Given the ongoing upsurge in e-books and electronic publication, I think we're likely to see more virtual versions from these "usual suspects," as well as an outpouring of similar packages (most likely in virtual form only) from other potential players in this marketplace as well, including practice test developers, training companies, and content developers with an eye on the Microsoft Academy program in high school and the post-secondary education markets. This should make for lots of options, and plenty of interesting stuff, to soon be making itself known -- and available -- to interested buyers.

Stay tuned! I'll try to keep a running tally of the things that start showing up online, and at my door. It should be interesting to watch the bundles, boxed sets, and cert collections blossom and grow over the next six months.