With an eye toward giving developers the tools they need to take advantage of the technology driving mobile device and data explosions, Microsoft today launched Visual Studio 2012, the latest version of its venerable integrated development environment.

Even as that product was unveiled, with the .NET 4.5 Framework and an update to Team Foundation Server that introduces an Express version and a hosted version, Microsoft also said that update 1 will ship before the end of the year.

Visual Studio 2012 takes support for agile practices front and center, with first-class support for Scrum and other methodologies, as well as Capability Maturity Model Integration, according to Jason Zander, corporate vice president for Visual Studio at Microsoft. It also includes a PowerPoint-based storyboarding feature for agile teams.

Productivity enhancements include form-factor optimizations, such as touch, font and transition options, as well as integration with the Windows Store, so developers can publish their applications, Zander said.

Soma Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Developer Division, pointed out the ambitious platform releases the company has made this year (Windows Azure, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Windows Server) and said with Visual Studio 2012, Microsoft wanted to give developers tools to build modern applications that leverage these platforms and enable continuous service to connected devices. “From the modern application development approach and the modern life cycle, Visual Studio 2012 is designed to help developers work collaboratively in an agile way,” he said.

As part of that, Somasegar said Microsoft would get onto a regular cadence of delivering updated tools to developers, and that update 1 is a part of that effort. A Community Technology Preview of the update will be released later this month, he added.

In that update will come ALM tools for SharePoint developers, most notably adding load testing and Coded UI automated test capabilities; a new set of test tools for what Microsoft is calling “continuous quality”; and original tools for HTML5 and JavaScript development as they relate to Windows application development.

“We’re working closely with the Office 365 and SharePoint teams to ensure the [developer] tools will enable you to target their latest and greatest platform technologies,” Somasegar said ahead of the launch.

Somasegar also announced an expansion of the Express family of development tools, saying that Visual Studio Express for Windows Desktop is now available for download. This gives developers Express tools for building Windows Desktop applications in C++, C# and VB.NET. Functional programming also gets a boost with tools for F# development in Visual Studio Web Express, he said. This will allow developers to “incorporate F# and functional programming into ASP.NET, or any cloud programming or Azure programming that you want to do,” he explained.

Today’s release also included Team Foundation Server Power Tools for Visual Studio 2012, which the company said offers advanced backup, Windows Explorer and PowerShell extensions, as well as a process template editor, available today. There is also new support for Windows Embedded Compact development, which will be available with the next release of Windows Embedded Compact, expected early next year.

Somasegar also pointed out that there are currently more than 3,400 items in the Visual Studio Gallery, a collection of tools and extensions that third-party providers are building on top of Visual Studio. “We’ve got about 72 of our partners with over 100 new tools and extensions and capabilities that will ship alongside Visual Studio 2012 today, taking advantage of the latest platform features,” he noted.

One of those partners, Columbia Sportswear, appeared at the Redmond launch event. Brian Summers, senior manager of global application development at Columbia Sportswear, said before the launch that the combination of Visual Studio 2012 and Team Foundation Server 2012 allows his entire development team to work in one collaborative environment. “We have a lot of developers who know both .NET and Java, and we like to move them back and forth,” he said. “So the Java guys use the Eclipse plug-in in TFS, and there’s no ramp-up time for developers.”

Dave Harrison, Columbia Sportswear’s .NET development team lead, said that the agile templates and test automation are the biggest advances in Visual Studio 2012. “The test automation gives better code coverage analysis,” he said. “And the better storyboard planning bridges the business and development teams. With everything all in one panel, it’s a no-brainer in terms of ease of use. The storyboard is so much better, because if it takes developers more than five minutes, they won’t do it.”

Summers added that the advantage of being able to work in one tool is the ability to tie backlog items directly to the source code. Aside from making tasks easier for developers, this is also important for historical tracking and auditing purposes.