Microsoft on Wednesday announced that it was beginning the delivery of pre-release versions of Windows Phone "Mango" to developers months ahead of the product's expected general release. Via this early access to the new Windows Phone OS version, developers will be able to create new mobile apps that take advantage of the system's new features.
"We know that one of the most impactful things we can do for developers is to help them get their hands on the actual product." Microsoft Director Brandon Watson noted in a blog post announcing the release. "For Mango, that starts today with an early access program for developers."
When Microsoft was prepping the initial release of Windows Phone 7 last summer, it had to ship prototype handsets to developers since it was then a brand-new OS that wouldn't run on existing devices. But this year, the software giant is in a better position, with dozens of device types in the market. So it can more easily provide developers with an online updating process that takes a retail Windows Phone handset and upgrades it to the pre-release version of Mango, which will likely be called Windows Phone 7.5 when it ships this fall.
Microsoft also delivered Beta 2 versions of its Windows Phone "Mango" software-development tools, which include a free version of Visual Studio called Visual Studio Express 2010 for Windows Phone and an updated version of the Windows Phone OS 7.1 SDK (yes, 7.1—the internal version is 7.1, not 7.5). These new pre-release tools are available from the Microsoft website.