I'm embarrassed to admit that I own a Pocket PC but rarely use it. I hang my head in shame at conferences when true uber-geeks whip out their expandable keyboards like the gunslingers of yesteryear and start typing away, while I pull out paper and pen to take notes. Oh, the shame! I'm not yet a member of the handheld borg, but I'm smart enough to recognize that resistance is futile. I have no doubt that mobile computing devices will become pervasive in the same way that ATM cards penetrated our lives a decade ago and mobile phones are changing our communication habits today. It's simply a question of when, not if.

I'm not trying to make an evangelical argument about the future of Palm and Pocket PC mobile devices. Microsoft, Palm, and other to-be-announced vendors will all play significant roles in the mobile computing market. But I do want to call your attention to Microsoft's recent announcement of the beta program for SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition 2.0 because I think this program will accelerate the use of Pocket PCs and other mobile devices, making them a pervasive part of SQL Server administrators' lives.

I don't use my Pocket PC for several reasons, one of the biggest of which is the lack of a killer application I just can't live without. A killer app will likely arise as more people start writing applications for mobile devices, which would happen if more people used their Pocket PCs, which would happen if they had a killer app—a classic chicken-or-the-egg scenario.

Microsoft representatives told me some exciting news about Microsoft's new .NET Compact Framework and SQL Server CE 2.0 that will encourage the development of killer apps for mobile devices. Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Compact Framework will make building applications for a mobile device easier than ever. The .NET Compact Framework, a subset of the full .NET Framework that's intended for mobile devices, will let developers build .NET applications with Visual Studio .NET and seamlessly deploy the applications on a mobile device.

Almost any application needs a data store, and SQL Server CE 2.0 offers a platform that makes deploying mobile versions of SQL Server easy. SQL Server CE 2.0 will support a new .NET managed provider for SQL Server CE that developers can use to write one code base, then port the application to a mobile device. In addition to the new managed provider, Microsoft representatives say that SQL Server CE 2.0 will offer several engine-level enhancements, including more advanced support for parameterized queries and intrinsic functions, and will increase the number of indexes that a table allows.

Aside from the business productivity benefits it brings, mobile database computing is an interesting option to consider if you're a SQL Server professional looking for a high-growth area to specialize in. If you're interested in using SQL Server CE 2.0 to develop applications, consider nominating yourself for the SQL Server CE 2.0 beta program. Spots in the beta program are limited; you can apply for the program at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/evaluation/betanominations.asp

This program addresses the SQL Server CE 2.0 beta for the eMbedded Visual Tools, which include eMbedded Visual Basic 3.0, eMbedded Visual C++ 3.0, and eMbedded Visual C++ 4.0. The beta program includes the necessary server-side components to do synchronization with both SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 7.0. Support for Smart Device Extensions and the .NET Compact Framework will be available to beta-program participants from a separate public beta forum at the MSDN Web site.