Today, I’m excited to announce that Visual Studio 11 Beta and .NET 4.5 Beta will be available in just a few days, on February 29th, 2012.  These releases will be “go live,” meaning they will enable usage in production environments.

Industry Trends

There are a number of industry trends that have significantly influenced the investments we’ve made in Visual Studio 11 and .NET 4.5, and even the engineering processes we’ve used to bring this software to light.

Historically, the Developer Division at Microsoft focused entirely on the “professional developer,” on the approximately 10 million people that built software as their primary vocation.  Over the last few years, however, the software development landscape has significantly changed.  What used to be 10 million developers is now upwards of 100 million, spanning not only “professional developers,” but also students, entrepreneurs, and in general people who want to build an app and put it up on an app store.  From professionals to hobbyists, developers today build applications that span from the business world to the consumer world, and that run on a wide range of client and server platforms and devices.

Not coincidentally, we’ve also seen a monumental growth in the use of devices.  Many of us now have one or more devices with us at any point in time, whether it’s a phone, a tablet, a laptop, or any number of other form factors.  We expect these devices to provide us with natural modes of interaction, like touch and speech. We need them to provide us with up-to-date views on our virtual world, with our data syncing seamlessly.  To enable that flow of information, we see more and more devices connecting up to continuous services living in the “cloud.”  Further, these devices and the apps they run are no longer just for our use at home or work, but rather span all of our worlds, wherever we may be.  In this light, we’ve started to witness the “consumerization of IT.”

As developers, this proliferation of connected devices and continuous services has had a profound impact on the kinds of solutions we build and deploy.  More than ever we think about architecting our applications in a service-oriented manner, and more than ever we think about how consumer-like experiences should permeate even the most routine of business applications.

In addition to shifts in application patterns, the rising number of developers building apps, the ubiquity of devices running them, and the momentum of apps moving to the cloud, we’ve also seen changes in how these apps are envisioned, delivered, and managed.  The online social experiences that we’ve come to rely on for fellowship in our personal lives now also find their way into our work lives.  The fast-paced nature of the modern software era has necessitated more rapid ship cycles, with frequent servicing updates, and tools for collaboration and communication have become crucial.   Furthermore, this has led to a rise in agile software development practices, and an increased importance of the “DevOps” cycle.

Delivering Value

It’s with these and other trends as a backdrop that we set out to build Visual Studio 11 and .NET 4.5 and that have guided them to their pending beta releases.

All developers, from professionals to non-professionals, need great tools to create modern consumer and business applications that delight users and that span from client to cloud.  Towards that end, I’m thrilled at the depth of alignment we’ve had in the development of Visual Studio 11 and Windows 8, which have been engineered together with these goals in mind.  The effect is obvious: Visual Studio 11 provides a best-in-class experience for developing apps for Windows. We’ve applied the same level of thoughtfulness across all Microsoft platforms, so whether your app runs on Windows, Windows Phone, Windows Server, or Windows Azure, Visual Studio 11 and .NET 4.5 enable you to transform your ideas for those applications into reality.

Being able to build such applications productively is a key piece of what Visual Studio 11 and .NET 4.5 deliver.  Whether you spend your work days building enterprise software, or your spare time building the next great breakthrough app, it’s crucial that you make the most of your time spent.  Visual Studio 11 combines a simplified development environment with high-productivity features to help you to maximize your time investment.  These productivity enhancements go beyond the IDE, and extend through the languages, libraries, and runtimes on which your software relies. 

Building software is also often a social experience, and an individual developer’s productivity is impacted by the efficiency of the team. With Visual Studio 11, we enable everyone, from the product owner to the designer to the developer to the tester to the customer, to be empowered to create and release high-quality software and services. These collaboration and agility needs extend from the largest of teams down to the smallest. Team Foundation Server Express, which is free to individuals and to teams of up to 5 users, provides an easy way for those small teams to start embarking on the DevOps cycle.

On to Beta

To learn more about the Visual Studio 11 Beta and .NET 4.5 Beta news we announced today, please see Jason Zander’s blog.  And as always, I look forward to your feedback as we release the Beta next week.

Namaste!