In advance of the first Windows Phone 7 smartphone from Nokia hitting the market, Microsoft is now giving developers a chance to tinker with the updated version of the mobile operating system.

In a post the official Windows Phone blog, Brandon Watson, senior director of developer experience for Windows Phone, stated that early reactions to the update – dubbed Mango – have been positive. However, with developers getting to take a swing at the mobile OS, now is the time to figure out what makes Mango unique.

With the new beta version, Microsoft has introduced several new tools to help developers build applications for WP7-based smartphones and work with its features, including Motion Sensors, Live Tiles and App Connect.

Microsoft has also invited students to join the reindeer games, setting aside 50 Mango developer handsets for college students. This will be a particularly good summer project for those students who aren't too keen on sunburns.

Microsoft announced the Mango update for Windows Phone last month, promising more than 500 new features for "smarter and easier communications, apps and internet experience." Mango is expected to start appearing on handsets this fall.