Microsoft has launched a portal designed to let the developer community learn about and try new software initiatives coming out of the software giant.

DevLabs is an online portal where Microsoft plans to share some "early thinking" and let developers help shape the direction of projects, blogged S. Somasegar, senior vice president in Microsoft's developer division. Developers will also get to use some early versions of tools in order to offer feedback.

Many of the projects will start with people who work in Microsoft's developer division, but they can come from other groups that may be working on projects geared toward developers, he said.

Somasegar stressed that the site isn't meant to draw feedback on next releases of existing products, since mechanisms for that are already in place. The projects featured on DevLabs will be early ideas that haven't yet been hammered into exact products, he said. Some projects could become features in existing products, others might be open sourced for the community and others may be trashed, he said.

For now, DevLabs is featuring four projects, including the recently-launched Small Basic. This is a development tool for beginning developers that could be used by kids or adults. It is inspired by the BASIC programming language and based on .Net.

Pex and Popfly, two projects that have been around for a while, are also featured on the site. Popfly users can create games, mashups and web pages, and Pex is a software testing tool.

Finally, developers can get involved with the creation of Chess, another software testing tool that Microsoft has been developing for a couple years and that it plans to reveal more about next week at its Professional Developers Conference.