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The Big Question Rises How To Become Microsoft, Cisco, ComTIA Certified

The big question rises how to become the Microsoft certified , All Microsoft certifications are acquired by simply taking a series of exams. If you can self-study for said exams, and then pass them, then you can acquire the certification for the mere cost of the exam (and maybe whatever self-study materials you purchase).

You’ll also need, at minimum (in addition to the MCTS), the CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+ certs; as well as the Cisco CCNA cert.

Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) – This is the basic entry point of Microsoft Certifications. You only need to pass a single certification test to be considered an MCTS and there are numerous different courses and certifications that would grant you this after passing one. If you are shooting for some of the higher certifications that will be discussed below, then you’ll get this on your way there.

Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) – This certification was Microsoft’s previous “Developer Certification” meaning that this was the highest certification that was offered that consisted strictly of development-related material. Receiving it involved passing four exams within specific areas (based on the focus of your certification). You can find the complete list of courses and paths required for the MCPD here.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) – This is Microsoft’s most recent “Developer Certification” which will replace the MCPD Certification (which is being deprecated / retired in July of 2013). The MCSD focuses within three major areas of very recent Microsoft development technologies and would likely be the best to persue if you wanted to focus on current and emerging skills that will be relevant in the coming years. You can find the complete list of courses and paths required for the MCSD here.

The Microsoft Certifications that you listed are basically all of the major ones within the realm of development. I’ll cover each of the major ones and what they are :

Most people, however, take some kind of course. Some colleges — especially career and some community colleges — offer such courses (though usually they’re non-credit). Other providers of such courses are private… some of them Microsoft Certified vendors of one type or another, who offer the courses in such settings as sitting around a conference table in their offices. Still others specialize in Microsoft certification training, and so have nice classrooms set up in their offices.

There are also some online (and other forms of distance learning) courses to help prepare for the exams.

The cost of taking classes to prepare can vary wildly. Some are actually free (or very nearly so), while others can cost hundreds of dollars. It all just depends on the provider.

And here’s a Google search of MCTS training resources (which can be mind-numbing in their sheer numbers and types, so be careful what you choose):

There are some pretty good, yet relatively inexpensive, ways to get vendor certificate training. Be careful not to sign-up for something expensive and involved when something cheaper — like subscribing to an “all the certificates you care to study for one flat rate” web site — would, in addition to purchasing a study guide or two at a bookstore, likely be better.

If you want a career in IT, then you need to have both an accredited degree in same (preferably a bachelors over an associates), and also a variety of IT certifications. The MCTS is but one that you will need.

You should probably also get the Microsoft MCSE and/or MCSA. The ICS CISSP. And the ITIL.

There are others, but if you have those, you’ll be evidencing a broad range of IT expertise that will be useful, generally. Then, in addition, if the particular IT job in which you end-up requires additional specialist certification, then you can get that, too (hopefully at the expense of your employer who requires it of you).

Then, whenever (if ever) you’re interested in a masters in IT, here’s something really cool of which you should be aware…

There’s a big (and fully-accredited, fully-legitimate) university in Australia which has partnered with Microsoft and several other vendors to structure distance learning degrees which include various certifications; and in which degrees, considerable amounts of credit may be earned simply by acquiring said certifications. It’s WAY cool.

One can, for example, get up to half of the credit toward a Masters degree in information technology by simply getting an MCSE (though the exams which make it up must be certain ones which correspond with the university’s courses). I’ve always said that if one were going to get an MCSE, first consult the web site of this university and make sure that one takes the specific MCSE exams that this school requires so that if ever one later decided to enter said school’s masters program, one will have already earned up to half its degree’s credits by simply having the MCSE under his/her belt. Is that cool, or what?

I wouldn’t rely on them over experience (which is far and away the most valuable asset out there) but they are worth pursuing especially if you don’t feel like you have enough experience and need to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills to land a position as a developer.

If you are going to pursue a certification, I would recommend going after the MCSD (Web Applications Track) as it is a very recent certification that focuses on several emerging technologies that will still be very relevant (if not more-so) in the coming years. You’ll pick up the MCTS along the way and then you’ll have both of those under your belt. MCPD would be very difficult to achieve based on the short time constraints (passing four quite difficult tests within just a few months is feasible, but I don’t believe that it is worth it since it will be “retired” soon after).

No job experience at all is necessary for any of the Microsoft Certifications, you can take them at any time as long as you feel confident enough with the materials of the specific exam you should be fine. The tests are quite difficult by most standards and typically cover large amounts of material, but with what it sounds like a good bit of time to study and prepare you should be fine.

Certifications, in addition to degrees, are so important in the IT field, now, that one may almost no longer get a job in that field without both. The certifications, though, are so important that one who has a little IT experience can get a pretty good job even without a degree as long as he has all the right certs. But don’t do that. Definitely get the degree… and not merely an associates. Get the bachelors in IT; and make sure it’s from a “regionally” accredited school.

Then get the certs I mentioned (being mindful, if you think you’ll ever get an IT masters, to take the specific exams that that Strut masters program requires so that you’ll have already earned up to half the credit just from the certs).

If you already have two years of experience in working in the .NET environment, a certification isn’t going to guarantee that you will get employed, a salary increase or any other bonuses for achieving the honor. However, it can help supplement your resume by indicating that you are familiar with specific technologies enough to apply them in real-world applications to solve problems.

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10 predictions for Windows 8

Although there have been numerous rumors regarding what we can expect from Windows 8, Microsoft has revealed very few concrete details. So I wanted to take the opportunity to present my predictions. Before I do however, I need to point out that most of these predictions are pure speculation on my part. I have no inside information from Redmond, nor do I claim to have a crystal ball.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: ARM support
The one firm detail that Microsoft has released is that Windows 8 will support the ARM architecture. ARM processors are common in various consumer electronics devices, and it seems clear that Microsoft is positioning itself to allow Windows 8 to run on PCs, tablets, and cell phones.

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2: Separation from the server
Before the days of Windows XP, Windows Server and the Windows desktop clients were two completely different operating systems. In recent years, Microsoft has tried to cut development costs by designing its desktop and server operating systems to use the same kernel. Even so, I think we may see Microsoft make a departure from the strategy. In my opinion, Windows client operating systems (especially with the newly announced ARM support) are simply becoming too different from Windows Server operating systems. I think Microsoft will eventually have no choice but to resume completely separate development cycles. Whether this happens in the Windows 8 timeframe remains to be seen, though.

3: OS on a diet
For as long as I can remember, people have complained that Windows is an overly bloated operating system. Since Microsoft is going to design Windows 8 to run equally well on PCs and devices with ARM processors, I think that it will have no choice but to trim down the operating system.

Consumers have been driven to adopt tablets and other mobile devices because of their speed, simplicity, and the fact that they boot instantly. Windows 7 is far too bloated to meet any of these expectations. Therefore, if Microsoft wants to use Windows 8 on mobile devices, it will have to get rid of many of the things that make Windows 7 so bloated and inefficient.

4: Goodbye to 32-bit support
Even though there are rumors to the contrary, I expect Microsoft to do away with 32-bit support in Windows 8. Every PC that has been manufactured in the last several years includes a 64-bit processor. There is absolutely no reason why a brand-new operating system needs to continue to support legacy 32-bit hardware.

Whether Windows 8 will support 32-bit applications remains to be seen. In the previous item, I mentioned that Microsoft needs to design Windows 8 to make it less bloated and more efficient. One of the easiest ways Microsoft could do this would be to design the kernel so that it runs only 64-bit applications. However, there are still so many 32-bit applications in use, I think Microsoft will continue to provide support for those applications, even if it’s not in a traditional way.

5: Virtual plug-ins
Believe it or not, I think that Windows 7 was actually a model for Windows 8 in some ways. As you will recall, Microsoft offers something called Windows XP mode in some editions of Windows 7. With Windows XP mode, Windows XP runs as a virtual machine, but in a rather unique way. Users can either use the Windows XP desktop or they can run applications transparently through the Windows 7 desktop, even though those applications are actually running on Windows XP.

I think that Microsoft may bring the same model to Windows 8. Rather than provide backward compatibility to legacy operating systems within the Windows a kernel, Microsoft may create virtual instances of legacy operating systems (including 32-bit operating systems) that function as plug-ins to Windows 8. This would be an ideal solution because this approach would help keep the Windows 8 kernel small and efficient, while still providing a means of achieving backward compatibility for those who need it.

6: Heavy reliance on the cloud
This past summer at TechEd in New Orleans, Microsoft placed extremely heavy emphasis on cloud computing. I don’t expect Microsoft to completely abandon its cloud focus just because it has a new desktop operating system on the horizon. Instead, I look for Windows 8 to include heavy cloud integration. For example, I think that Windows 8 will probably provide the ability to make cloud applications appear to users as if they are installed and running locally.

7: Native support for virtualized apps
I think we can expect Windows 8 to offer native support for virtualized applications. Among these applications, I think Windows 8 will be designed to run Internet Explorer in a sandbox. This would help put an end to all the security issues that Microsoft has previously had with the browser, because virtualizing and sandboxing Internet Explorer would prevent malicious Web sites from infecting the core operating system. It may even be possible to reset Internet Explorer to a pristine state after each use.

8: A bigger distinction between consumer and enterprise versions
Ever since Windows XP, Microsoft has offered different editions of its desktop operating systems with at least one version geared toward consumers and another toward businesses. I think that in Windows 8, we will see a greater distinction between the consumer and enterprise editions than ever before.

If my prediction about the core operating system being small and efficient holds true, I think that Microsoft will market the lightweight OS to businesses as being more secure than previous versions of Windows because of its smaller footprint. At the same time, though, I doubt that Microsoft will be able to resist the temptation to load up the consumer version with unnecessary software, such as software to provide native support for Zune.

9: Using hardware to drive sales
One thing that was abundantly clear from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year is that the PC is in real trouble. Consumers have begun to shy away from purchasing desktops and laptops in favor of purchasing tablet devices. As a result, I look for Microsoft to use native operating system support for specialized hardware to try to woo customers back to the PC. For example, I think we will see an adaptation of Microsoft Kinect for the PC, which will allow interacting with the PC via hand gestures. Just how practical it will be to work with a PC in this manner remains to be seen, but I think it will make a great marketing gimmick.

10: Name change
Even though everyone has been using the name Windows 8, I don’t think that will be the official name of the new operating system. At the moment, Microsoft has a serious image problem. It’s perceived by many as being out of touch and late to the party. While other companies are focusing on tablets and mobile devices, Microsoft is still writing software for the PC. I think that in an effort to lose its dated image, Microsoft may rebrand Windows as something completely different. It might even lose the name Windows.

If you think this sounds farfetched, consider what recently happened with Microsoft Flight Simulator. Flight Simulator has been around for roughly 30 years, which puts its longevity more or less on par with Windows. Even so, Microsoft has announced that the next edition will be called Microsoft Flight. It is rebranding the product to try to change its image in order to attract gamers and not just pilots (or aspiring pilots).

Your predictions
Do you agree with the possibilities outlined here? Join the discussion and share your own Windows 8 prophesies.

Hey Microsoft, Get Out of the Cloud

It’s time for Microsoft to rethink its approach to the cloud. The cloud stinks.

The personal computer revolution began as an attempt to move away from centralized control, allowing people to have a system that was powerful, yet individualized. Big companies who hogged computing were seen as evil. Soon everything became self-contained and desktop-centric. There was desktop publishing, desktop marketing, desktop mapping. Now everything is supposed to move to that mainframe in the sky—the cloud.

But the cloud stinks. Its applications have always been much slower than their desktop counterparts. Try to get to the end cell of a large cloud-based shreadsheet. You’ll long for the desktop version. The whole process is exacerbated by the speed of the Internet. The Internet is also unreliable. A couple of weeks ago, I was down for two hours. A month ago, I lost my connection for 20-plus hours.

And where is Microsoft in all of this? The company seems to keep forgetting what business it’s in. While Windows 7 and Office continue to be huge cash cows with no end in sight, the company is encouraging the idea of cloud computing by claiming that that is the direction it’s headed in, as well. Huh?

Why isn’t Microsoft trying to derail cloud computing? That’s what I would be doing it its position. It should think about killing Hotmail on a whim and saying, “there’s your cloud computing. Look what happened!” That, ultimately, is the real issue with the cloud. It’s not like your shrink wrapped software or even a stand alone download software package, which you essentially own and control. What would happen if Microsoft killed Hotmail? What would users do?

Read the terms of service to find out. The company can essentially do whatever it wants. You have no recourse. More onerous is the fact that almost every license agreement says that the company can change the wording whenever it wants to whatever it wants. All cloud action is essentially ethereal. Now you see it, now you don’t. Whatever happened to all of those old Geocities and AOL Websites, anyway?

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Here’s a proposed Microsoft advertisement:

A friend laments that his cloud-based software has stopped working. The company wants to charge him a fortune to return his data. His pal smiles and says, “you wouldn’t have this problem with Microsoft packaged software. It runs on your machine! It’s yours. You control it. Nobody can take it away from you. Nobody can discontinue your account. It just works!”

“Wow, Jim. Why didn’t someone tell me about this earlier? You mean I don’t have to keep going online to do my work?

“That’s right! And there’s no monthly fee!”

“No monthly fee? Where do I sign up?”

“It comes in a box. It installs itself.”

“I’m sold! Thanks Microsoft!”

That sort of commercial will never happen, of course. Microsoft sees cloud computing as a better way to make more money.

And cloud computing does have its place as a substitute for large IT departments in large corporations. It’s cheaper. That’s what the cloud is really about. It’s not about usurping freedom from the individual users and charging them more money. That’s where the cloud fails.

From the beginning Microsoft was a company that enabled the individual PC user. Now it talks about the cloud like everyone else. Microsoft really needs to rethink its approach.

HTC Committed to Microsoft, Google OSes

BARCELONA, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC will stick with phone software from both Microsoft and rival Google for the long term, Chief Executive Peter Chou told Reuters on Thursday.

HTC, which specialises in smartphones that run computer-like functions such as Web browsing and email, has long been a staunch partner of Microsoft, and is also the maker of Google’s first own-branded phone, based on Google’s Android software.

“Our commitment to Microsoft has never changed,” Chou said in a meeting at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s biggest wireless industry fair.

“Of course, we are very committed to Android as well. We are very long-term committed to those two.”

Earlier in the week at the show Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7, a revamped version of its mobile phone operating software, while Google’s chief executive Eric Schmidt made his first appearance at the fair and gave a keynote speech.

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HTC announced two Android phones and one Microsoft phone thie week as well as a budget smartphone, the Smart, based on neither Microsoft nor Google software but a chipset from Qualcomm that will likely sell at about half the price.

HTC, the world’s fourth-largest maker of smartphones, said last month that gross profit margins would fall to about 30 percent this quarter from 32 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, but Chou said investor concern was overdone.

“I think there’s some misunderstanding that we’re sacrificing our margin tremendously,” he said. “We’re adding overall absolute profit to the company, making HTC competitive, much stronger over time,” he said.

“Our margins just changed 1-2 percent. It’s not a big deal,” he said. “We think we are doing the right thing for our future, our competitiveness and we are very confident on our strategy.” (Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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Microsoft Hotmail Bug Affected 17K Users

Microsoft on Monday said its Hotmail problem affected more than 17,000 users, but insisted that the problem has since been resolved.

Starting December 30, Windows Live Hotmail users trying to access their e-mail were met with empty inboxes. The problem affected 17,355 accounts, which saw their sent messages, inbox, and folders disappear.

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“Customers impacted temporarily lost the contents of their mailbox through the course of mailbox load balancing between servers,” Microsoft’s Chris Jones said in a Monday afternoon blog post. “We identified the root cause and restored mail to the impacted accounts as of yesterday evening, January 2nd.”

Jones had few other details, but said Microsoft would “fully investigate the cause and will take steps to prevent this from happening again.”

“We’re very sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused to you, our customers and partners,” he continued.

Over the weekend, Microsoft’s official support forum started showing posts from people who reported that their entire Hotmail accounts were gone. Users were able to log in, but there were no e-mails in their inbox, no sent or deleted messages, and no folders.

One user reported getting an error message upon sign-in on December 31 before seeing a “new” Hotmail account welcome message.

Earlier today, Microsoft said it had restored the e-mails to those who were affected, but encouraged those who might still be affected to provide detailed information about their trouble on Microsoft’s Windows Live Help site.

Microsoft Confirms Zune for Mac Software Coming in 2010

A version of Microsoft’s Zune software will be available for Apple Macs by year’s end, the company said this week.

“Later in 2010 Microsoft will make a public beta available of a tool that allows Windows Phone 7 to sync select content with Mac computers,” Microsoft said in a statement.

As a result, Windows Phone 7 owners should be able to hook up their smartphones to a Mac and sync content stored on programs like iTunes.

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The news was first reported in a now-deleted Twitter post from Oded Ran, head of consumer marketing for Windows Phone U.K. “Daily #WP7 Announcement: I’m glad to confirm that Mac users would be able to use Zune on their Macs to sync with #WP7. More details soon,” according to the Tuesday night tweet, a screen grab of which was posted on Apple Insider.

Microsoft apparently considered a smaller application that would handle phone syncing, but opted for a more feature-rich offering, Apple Insider said.

Microsoft unveiled its initial Windows Phone 7 lineup on Monday, including two devices for T-Mobile, three for AT&T, and more from Sprint and Verizon expected next year. The smartphones are the first to bundle the Zune music experience on the handset – letting users tap into their music collection from phone. PCMag audio analyst Tim Gideon recently speculated that this, sadly, signals the end of the standalone Zune device in favor of Zune-enabled Windows Phone 7 devices.

For more details on Windows Phone 7 phones, see PCMag’s hands-on look at all the devices announced Monday.

Microsoft Excel 2003

Most of the major improvements in Microsoft Excel 2003 involve workgroup functions, but there are a few enhancements that may tempt individual users to upgrade.

The key new Excel enhancement—XML, IRM (information rights management), and SharePoint aside—is its new List feature. This addresses some of the problems traditionally associated with lists—including the fact that the SUM function didn’t work as you might expect on filtered lists. Once you’ve created an Excel 2003 list by clicking on Data | List | Create List, it’s surrounded with a blue border showing clearly where it begins and ends. The last row in the list contains a single asterisk, much as you’d see in an Access table. Entering data in any cell in that row (within the list) inserts a new row in the list.

Every column has the AutoFilter enabled by default, which lets you quickly filter and sort the list. Totaling a column is as easy as clicking the Toggle Total Row button on the new List toolbar and choosing one of a range of functions for each column, such as Sum, Count, Average, Max, or Min. Excel lists can be published to a SharePoint site, keeping the local and server copies in sync if required.

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There is a new Compare Worksheets feature, which you use by opening two workbooks and then choosing the Compare Side by Side option from the Window menu. Excel stacks the sheets vertically and, like Word, synchronizes them so moving around in one worksheet scrolls the other, letting you compare their contents easily.

A range of statistical functions—VAR, STDEV, STDEVP, DVAR, FORECAST, SLOPE, INTERCEPT, PEARSON, RSQ, STEYX, and others—have been fixed by changing how they are calculated, to reduce the likelihood they will return incorrect answers. In earlier versions, these functions were known to fail, because of the rounding required where large numbers were involved.

Other changes include a new Date Smart Tag, which lets you schedule a meeting or display your Outlook Calendar. And a new Person Name Smart Tag lets you get data from an Outlook contact you’ve recently e-mailed. As with Word, Excel users can remove personal data from a workbook before saving it— although the option is disabled by default. To enable it, choose Tools | Options | Security.

Windows Market May Dip Below 90 Percent This Year

Microsoft Windows’ market share is on the verge of falling below 90 percent this year, according to the latest data from Net Applications, diluted by the uptake of alternative mobile operating systems.

Windows’ market share, which includes its mobile Windows OS performance, sank to 90.29 percent in December 2010, down from 92.21 percent the year before.

Meanwhile Apple’s Mac and iOS platforms took 5.02 percent and 1.69 percent respectively last month. Mac OS share was down from its peak of 5.27 percent in October 2009, while iOS adoption more than doubled last year, when Apple sold millions of iPhones and iPads. The rest of the operating systems – Linux, Java ME, and ‘others’ – accounted for three percent of the pie.

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Vince Vizzaccaro, executive vice president of marketing at Net Applications, said growth in smartphone and tablet browsing posed perhaps the greatest influence on Windows’ performance.

“With a full HTML browser and multi-touch interface, the iPhone was the first mobile device to see rapid growth in browser usage,” Vizzaccaro said. “Apple has expanded on that success with iPad and iPod browsing, so that iOS is now the third most used operating system in the Internet. Since the introduction of the original iPhone, everyone else has been trying to catch up with Apple.”

Microsoft’s end-of-year Windows Phone 7 devices and Windows 7 tablets, meanwhile, have yet to make a major dent in the mobile operating system space.

But Vizzaccaro says things could heat up this year as the economy improves, and consumers finally replace outdated Windows models with newer ones. “While there is no guarantees who will benefit from this the most, we could see a growth spurt in Windows 7 usage,” he says.

The latest data from Net Applications comes from monitoring traffic into 40,000 different websites.

Microsoft Restores Hotmail Access

Microsoft on Monday said it had restored e-mail service to Hotmail users after many reported that their entire accounts were deleted without warning.

“We have restored the emails to those who were effected,” Microsoft said in a Monday note on its help site.

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Users who are still experiencing problems are encouraged to log into windowslivehelp.com and post details about the problem.

“We sincerely apologize and thank you for your continued patience,” Microsoft said.

Over the weekend, Microsoft’s official support forum started showing posts from people who reported that their entire Hotmail accounts were gone. Users were able to log in, but there were no e-mails in their inbox, no sent or deleted messages, and no folders.

One user reported getting an error message upon sign-in on December 31 before seeing a “new” Hotmail account welcome message.

On Sunday, Microsoft said it had “identified the source of the issue have restored e-mail access to those who were effected” but did not elaborate. For users who did not receive mail during the down time, Microsoft said it was “in the process of rectifying that and should be finished by late [Sunday] Pacific time.”

Microsoft Fights Apple’s Attempt To Trademark ‘App Store’

Can an “app store” refer to any brand other than Apple? Microsoft thinks so.

Microsoft has motioned for a summary judgment to block Apple from trademarking the phrase “app store,” as it filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on July 17, 2008.

“An ‘app store’ is an ‘app store.’ Like ‘shoe store’ or ‘toy store,’ it is a generic term that is commonly used by companies, governments, and individuals that offer apps,” said Microsoft’s Russell Pangborn, Associate General Counsel of Trademarks. “The term ‘app store’ should continue to be available for use by all without fear of reprisal by Apple.”

In 2008, the year of Apple’s applicaton, Apple launched the “App Store” to sell mobile software to its nascent smartphone, the iPhone. As the phone’s popularity took off, so has the common, though not universal, correlation of “app store” with Apple.

However, Microsoft argues in a 23-page motion (PDF), which is posted on techflashpodcast.com, that the phrase “app store” is too generic to belong to any one company:

“Terms that combine the generic name of a product with the generic designator ‘store’ or ‘warehouse’ are generic and unregistrable for retail store services featuring the product. THE COMPUTER STORE, for example, was held generic for stores selling computers,” Microsoft wrote.

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Furthermore, the motion argues, the phrase “app store” has been widely used as a generic term by members of the trade, press, consumers, and even Apple CEO Steve Jobs, to refer to any retail store offering computer software.

“Amazon, Verizon and Vodafone have all announced that they are creating their own app stores for Android. There will be at least four app stores on Android,” Jobs reportedly said in an interview, according to Microsoft’s motion.

If Apple trademarked “App store,” it could sue anyone who dared use the phrase to describe its own, er, app store.

Google and Microsoft distinguished their own retail software stores early on with names like Android Market and Windows Marketplace for Mobile, but others are less differentiated: Blackberry has App World, Samsung calls its store Samsung Apps, and HP has the App Catalog. Microsoft notes that most of these rivals, at one point, have publicly referred to their own retail sites as an “app store.”

Microsoft’s appeal freezes the status of Apple’s trademark application to “opposition pending.”

Last October, Apple successfully trademarked the phrase, “There’s an app for that.” Facebook also convinced the USPTO to block other businesses from using the word “face” in their names.

Apple declined to comment.