On Wednesday, Microsoft granted members of its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Universal program access to Community Technology Preview (CTP) builds of Indigo, the company's upcoming Web services technology, and Avalon, an upcoming graphics presentation subsystem. Originally slated to appear only in Longhorn, the next major version of Windows, Indigo and Avalon will instead be backported to Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2) and Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 (SP1) as well, providing developers with a much wider audience of potential users.

"The Community Technology Preview helps developers plan their development cycle by getting an early idea of how \[these technologies\] work," says Ari Bixhorn, the lead product manager of Web Services, Microsoft Platform Strategy. "Indigo radically simplifies the development of secure, reliable, transacted Web services that interoperate with other platforms and that can evolve with the needs of the business over time. Together, Indigo and Avalon enable developers to build connected systems that take advantage of the processing power of the smart client, incorporate cutting-edge media and graphics, and communicate both securely and reliably with other applications regardless of their underlying platform."

The Indigo and Avalon CTP builds are pre-Beta 1 code, Microsoft says, but includes all of the features the company plans to ship in the Beta 1 releases of both technologies, which are due by the end of June. The final release versions of Indigo and Avalon will ship concurrently with Longhorn in mid-2006, Microsoft says.

MSDN Universal customers who are interested in previewing Indigo and Avalon can download the CTP bits from the MSDN Subscriber Downloads Web site. Other developers will have access to the code soon: Microsoft says it will make the CTP code available publicly in the days ahead. The Indigo documentation, however, is already publicly available on the Microsoft Web site.