Say what you will about Microsoft, but the company continues to serve up a veritable smorgasbord of developer tools and features that cater directly to its loyal developer base. This month’s release of the Visual Studio 11 beta has a lot in it to make those developers happy, with a focus on teams, agile development and cloud services.

Jason Zander, corporate vice president for Visual Studio, told SD Times that he sees the industry heading toward continuous services and connected devices, where developers will write a lot of business logic and application logic in the cloud for devices to connect to via services.

Microsoft “tripled down” on supporting agile practices in the Visual Studio 11 beta, according to Zander. “Ninety percent of our development team uses Scrum, and agile has definitely gone mainstream,” he said. “We wanted first-class support in our system” for agile practices.

Scrum is supported in an out-of-the-box template; templates for other methodologies, such as for CMMI, also are included.

Agile practices give organizations the ability to enable continuous value delivery. “Building the software is not good enough; it has to be deployed, and issues need to be addressed and fixed,” Zander said. “To go at that speed and have high quality, these things have to come together.” The Visual Studio 11 beta has a PowerPoint-based built-in storyboarding feature for agile teams.

The Visual Studio 11 beta tries to simplify the developer experience by putting code front and center in the editor while extra toolbars and extraneous color-coding have been removed, Zander said. “These are things that distract the eye from the code.”

In a world with applications being used on mobile devices, desktops and via a browser, there are many options available for developers: applications written in HTML5/JavaScript/CSS, or C/C++, or Java, or ASP.NET, or Objective-C, or jQuery, or a host of others, to be deployed on a server, in a browser, in the cloud, or on a mobile device. All of these options can be confusing for businesses and their developers, Zander admitted. But he did say that Microsoft sees it all consolidating around cloud services.

“The plethora of choice is being driven by the explosion of devices,” he said. “The common thread is running logic as a service.” Keeping the logic in the cloud, where applications running on any platform can access it, is what the future holds, he believes. And tooling is key.

“One of the core value propositions of Visual Studio is that if you learn the programming language, the runtime, the markup and the Visual Studio platform, as new devices come along, it’s literally the same set of skills needed to create applications for those devices,” Zander said. “A Windows 8 developer can easily figure out phone development,” he said, and vice versa.

He said Microsoft understands that developers are writing Web apps for other browsers, and phone apps for devices other than Windows phones, and so its tools must also accommodate that.

All this rich goodness might seem fine on the surface, but has Microsoft’s tooling become like a Viennese table of sorts? Have developers reached the point where they’ve had enough, and simply long for a plain old dish of vanilla ice cream? Time will tell, but one thing is already clear: The device explosion has not made the lives of developers and their managers easier. Quite the opposite is the case. Throw in the business side trying to figure out the best way to reach customers and clients without really understanding the technical aspects of each. Can complete chaos be far behind?

David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.