I recently returned from a brief trip to Microsoft’s TechEd conference in New Orleans. There, I talked with many folks familiar with the market about what changes they see in developers over years. I don’t mean just gray hair — I mean collectively in how developers have changed in the past few years.

Of course, Microsoft TechEd is much less about developers than it used to be — they have become an under-served, de-emphasized subset of the conference audience. That said, there were a few of us in the developer market putting in a token appearance, and when I chatted with them I had a few of my observations reinforced. I’d like to share a few with you.

Even the traditional “Microsoft enterprise developer” is no longer focusing entirely on Microsoft-delivered technologies. Many people — Microsoft folks included — have a tendency to assume this  important developer segment remains the same as it always was — willing to take what Microsoft delivers and hampered by corporate policy when adopting new technologies.

But new agile development methodologies, rapid iteration and economic pressure have made corporate policy less restrictive. And Microsoft itself — as witnessed by its latest iterations of Visual Studio — has embraced a more heterogeneous technology stack (HTML5, PHP, Javascript, etc.).

Other folks I talked to felt that developers of whatever stripe still did not understand the wealth of tools and services available to help make their jobs easier. Of course, part of this problem is the fault of the platform vendors like Microsoft and the Eclipse Foundation (Visual Studio and Eclipse, respectively). And some devs who get a disproportionate amount of visibility use OSX tools like Xcode or TextEdit as a badge of honor.

Regardless, it’s a real issue: overall awareness of the tools ecosystem does not seem to have dramatically increased over the past, say, 10 years. And we at Developer Media will take some responsibility — and will work on this in the future.

TechEd is an interesting event. Microsoft has moved it from a developer and IT Pro event to a more IT-centric one. As my friend Julie Lerman observes, there are still plenty of devs at TechEd, but Microsoft is clearly emphasizing Build as a developer event, even scheduling it over the top of TechEd Europe.

Microsoft appears to have admitted this. ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley quotes Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism Group in acknowledging issues with “the existing .Net developer base, many of whom have felt disenfranchised by Microsoft’s recent developer push toward HTML/JavaScript..”

According to Foley, Guggenheimer admits, “We haven’t done a good job telling the .Net developers we haven’t forgotten them.”