The vendor is making the software, featuring one of the main technologies of the so-called Web 2.0 revolution, available sooner than planned.

The company hopes to ship its Atlas technologies around the end of 2006, as opposed to next year.

Previously, Microsoft used the code name ASP.Net "Atlas" to refer to multiple components of technologies designed to assist Web developers with AJAX-style development. Now, the server-side Atlas functionality, which integrates with ASP.Net, is called ASP.Net 2.0 AJAX Extensions.

And client-side functionality, which integrates ASP.Net 2.0 AJAX Extensions and other back-end platforms such as PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) or ColdFusion, is called Microsoft AJAX Library. This features the client-side JavaScript library.

The Atlas Control Toolkit, meanwhile, is now called the ASP.Net AJAX Control Toolkit.

Microsoft had planned to ship Atlas with the next version of Visual Studio, code-named "Orcas," which is due next year.

By offering production-ready versions of ASP.Net 2.0 AJAX Extensions and the AJAX Library this year, enterprise customers will be able to take Atlas applications into production with fully supported APIs, Microsoft said.

The company also has had to address questions of which browsers to support. Nevertheless there has been tremendous interest in Atlas, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft Developer Division general manager, wrote in his blog (http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/).

"We've had an unbelievable amount of interest and excitement around the product, with more than 250,000 downloads this year alone," Guthrie said.

"I am excited to announce today that we are going to ship this fully supported Atlas 1.0 release on top of ASP.Net 2.0 and ensure that it works with Visual Studio 2005," Guthrie said.

"Over time, we will be moving more and more features into the fully supported bucket," Guthrie said. The 1.0 Atlas technology will be cross-browser and cross-platform, he added.

"Things will get even better next year with Visual Studio Orcas, where we are adding rich JavaScript IntelliSense, debugging and WYSIWYG designer support for the ASP.Net AJAX Extensions within Visual Studio and many other great features to take advantage of," Guthrie said.

Microsoft plans to have a beta of its Atlas technologies soon, followed by a release candidate.