Microsoft qualifications will pad the CV for another year, Teams for ventilator boffins, and Windows 10 threatened with very retro news app

1903 still rules roost, Azure Fabric 6.5 support extended, and more

Roundup Cross out the expiry date on your rapidly ageing role-based certification - you've got an extra six months. But that wasn't the only thing to break from Redmond in the past week, here are the best bits.

Certification expiry extended

Those seeking a boost to their self-esteem via a Microsoft qualification will be delighted to learn that the to-be-retired MCSA, MCSD and MCSE certifications and associated exams have been given a stay of execution for six months to 31 January 2021 as the company and its chums deal with the closure of testing centres during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Those possessed of a role-based certification expiring between now and 31 December 2020 will also enjoy an extra six months on their certification.

The certifications and exams were for the axe on 30 June as Microsoft cast the old world aside in favour of its role-based certifications. To be frank, the value of the older certifications has always been a little dubious compared to real-world experience; this hack, for example, managed to attain the lofty MCSE badge as the result of a bet between admin and developer.

They do, however, look good on a CV for some employers and many IT pros cherish their qualifications. As such, a bit more breathing space will be welcomed by those affected.

Windows 10 2004 creeps closer; 1903 still holds sway over half of Win10 world

The Windows Insider gang continued its dance around the release of the next version of Windows 10 with a fresh build dropped into the Slow Ring, 19041.172. Opting to call the thing "20H1", senior program manager Brandon LeBlanc had one fix to report (as well as the cumulative update, KB4552455, itself) for an issue that stopped the windows key + J shortcut giving focus to certain tips.

No, we hadn't had heard of that one either, and it seems (judging by Microsoft's support forums) problems still linger around USB 3.0 support. For its part, Microsoft lists Narrator and NVDA as the only known issues.

The update is expected to drop in April, certainly if the "2004" moniker is to be believed, and brings with it a multitude of tweaks and the very useful (for those that like a bit of Linux but must remain in Windows) Windows Subsystem for Linux 2.

New shiny aside, the latest production version of Windows 10, released last year as 1909 or 19H2 depending on your preferred naming convention, saw a considerable jump in usage from 22.6 per cent usage to 28.2 per cent in the latest batch of figures from AdDuplex.

The Windows 10 from this time last year, 19H1 or 1903, dropped slightly from 52.6 per cent to 50.7 per cent over the 100,000 PCs surveyed by the company while the nightmare of 1809 (aka The October 2018 Update) looks to be coming to an end, with only 11.4 per cent of PCs still running the thing.

Teams gets bigger

While its cloud might be creaking a little, Microsoft has plans for its Slack-for-suits collaboration platform, Teams. Despite some wobbles, the company is pressing ahead with ambitions to double the number of individuals in a team, from 5,000 to 10,000.

The uptick is due to be rolled out worldwide during April.

While ostensibly directed at large teams and those frontline workers the company is so keen on, the surge in Teams usage is likely to also have been a factor as well as organisations with many thousands of users (such as that lucky near-half million at Accenture).

Microsoft flings more free Teams at ventilators for Blighty

As efforts continued to secure more medical ventilators for the UK amid the COVID-19 pandemic, kind old Microsoft is giving free Teams access to the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium, which has been tasked with building the devices as well as sourcing components.

Microsoft also has plans for its HoloLens 2 headset to be used to show workers how to set up production processes with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist for hands-free help. Dynamics 365 is also supporting the supply chain for the ventilators, replete with parts traceability. Describing the process as so complex "it would normally take 12 months to set up", Microsoft trumpeted that it and best bud Accenture had managed it in three weeks.

The news is heartening, although we can but hope that enterprises remember that such compressed timescales are possible the next time the consultancy gravy train pulls up.

Azure Fabric 6.5 support extended

Though version 7 of its distributed system platform debuted last year, there are enough users sticking with version 6.5 for Microsoft to extend support by three months, from 1 May 2020 to 1 August 2020.

The move is in recognition that IT staff likely have enough on their hands dealing with the impact of COVID-19 to deal with a migration.

Describing the move as "a small gesture", Microsoft is nevertheless to remove expiration warnings from version 6.5 clusters and maintain support a while longer. The Windows giant said it would "make further extensions or modifications to the support schedule if the situation warrants" and "continue to monitor the situation".

Back to the future with Microsoft News

Rafael Rivera elicited a gasp of horror and Active Desktop memories as he revealed what Microsoft's upcoming News Bar might look like. Yup – a scrolling line of text sitting on top of the taskbar.

To be fair, the next version of Microsoft's flagship operating system is to be called Windows 10 2004, but to our squinty vulture eyes, this looks like something from another century entirely. Previously noted by Microsoft commenter the Walking Cat in February, the thing is currently lurking in the Microsoft Store but the "Premium Content" it promises has thus far only been glimpsed at in static screenshots.

A "constant stream of news"? It's a constant stream of something for sure. ®

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