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Microsoft and Cisco play top trumps with exam providers

Prometric and Pearson Vue divvy up the goods

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Microsoft and Cisco have been playing tit for tat with rival exam providers Prometric and Pearson Vue.

Network giant Cisco today announced a "primary-vendor strategy" by choosing to drop Prometric and retain Pearson Vue as its sole exam provider.

Meanwhile, software behemoth Microsoft had already quietly decided to ditch Pearson Vue in favour of an exclusive deal with Prometric.

Pearson Vue said it had no idea why Microsoft had made the decision to withdraw exams from its 4,000 testing sites, and, in a customer FAQ on its website, it said:

"We have not been informed of the reason for this decision. Feedback we have received from Microsoft employees and partners over the years has been overwhelmingly positive. Please contact Microsoft for details."

So we did, and an official statement explained why Prometric had been given the thumbs up:

"Microsoft Learning has determined that going with this model will ensure program enhancements and more consistency in the customer experience. It will also enable increased speed to market for exam innovations because of more streamlined internal processes.

"In a time when demand is growing for IT certifications, it is very important to us to deliver to our customers the best possible certification program and a consistent testing experience to achieve those certifications."

Until now, Microsoft and Cisco had long-standing global agreements with both Pearson Vue and Prometric to deliver their respectively beefy, butch, acronym-happy exams to wannabe IT professionals.

But, while Pearson Vue remains somewhat perplexed by Microsoft's decision, Prometric, in its Dutch office at least, has been dancing in the streets.

A Prometric spokeswoman at the Holland office told The Register:

"We really are thrilled to have got this exclusive contract with Microsoft and within the company there have been lots of celebrations."

Pearson Vue said the withdrawal of MS exams at the centres will begin in September this year. It will continue to sell MS certification vouchers up to 31 August before ditching the exams altogether at the end of December 2007.

Similarly, Cisco said it will honour exam vouchers sold at Prometric centres up to 1 August this year.

Looking on the bright side, Pearson Vue president Robert Whelan said the firm was delighted "to be partnering with Cisco on this new initiative and we look forward to a long and successful relationship." ®

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