Visual Studio 2012 bends to shifting IT landscape

Microsoft's update to Visual Studio reflects the emerging concerns around mobility, cloud computing and integrated development

Microsoft updated its Visual Studio software Wednesday so that the IDE reflects many of the changes that challenge developers, including mobility and cloud computing.

"From our perspective, the world of software development is changing, and changing very rapidly," said Soma Somasegar, Microsoft corporate vice president of Microsoft's developer division.

Today's workforce employees expect to do their jobs across a wider range of devices, not only PCs and laptops, but also tablets and smartphones. And they expect their data to be accessible to all of these devices. As a result, the developer "is building applications that span the range of devices on the front end and the cloud on the back end," Somasegar said.

For Visual Studio 2012, Microsoft has prepared the IDE to work with the company's new Windows 8 operating system for tablets, PCs and mobile devices. For the back end, the devices will be able to communicate with Windows Server 2012 or Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud service.

"You should be able to use Windows Server 2012 on a back end and have a variety of devices on the front end consume a range of services and data" from the server, Somasegar said. Using virtualization, organizations can move workloads between Windows Server and Azure.

The company has also responded to changes in the development community, taking considerable effort to prepare Visual Studio for continuous integration (CI) environments, which speeds the development process for complex software projects.

"Almost every software development team wants to use the agile software development methodology," Somasegar said.

When Visual Studio is used in conjunction with Microsoft's Team Foundation Server 2012 application lifecycle management product, organizations can specify which developers are involved in the project, as well as set a path between development, testing, updating and deployment of a new application.

For observers, Visual Studio 2012's support of the upcoming Windows 8 is the key new feature for this release.

"Microsoft is working through a transformation of its platform with the Windows 8 generation and the tools are a key ingredient of platform support," said Al Hilwa, IDC development software analyst. Windows 8 is "huge bet for Microsoft," Hilwa said, adding that "the developer traction is the single most important attribute of that platform in the long run."

Long time Visual Studio users will notice the new GUI, which conforms with the new look and feel of the upcoming Windows 8. "The new UI is a bold and risky move," Hilwa said. "Some developers will find it distracting and unnecessary while others will be hindered by reduced flexibility and color."

Microsoft also announced some other Visual Studio related news at Wednesday's launch. Microsoft plans to update Visual Studio more often, in keeping with the rapid upgrade cycles other Internet-aware software providers such as Google and Mozilla have adopted. Visual Studio 2012 Update 1 will be out by the end of the year, with a preview edition to be available by the end of September.

The company also announced that developers can now build applications for the Windows Embedded Compact and -- through a plug-in -- Microsoft's functional language, F#. The company is providing power tools to speed routine developer tasks and to work more easily with Microsoft's Team Foundation Server. A free version of the IDE, called Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop, will be made available.

Along with Visual Studio 2012, Microsoft also released the .Net Framework 4.5.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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