Yesterday we heard reports that a beta version of the Windows Phone Mango update would be released to developers this week. We then heard from Brandon Watson (via tweet) that such a release wasn't going to happen this week. Watson never said a beta would never be released, just not this week.
Enter Cliff Simpkins, Senior Product Manager for Windows Phone 7. In a forum for developer feedback on Windows Phone development the question arose about giving developers early access to Mango. Simpkins initial response,
"per @joebelfiore on May-24: We are working on a plan for DEVELOPERs to be able to get Mango for phones before we launch."
Simpkins would also follow up by clarifying that the Mango update and Mango devices are two different items. Because current devices will update to Mango, this helps reduce the number of developer devices needed. This makes sense and will help make the distribution easier on Microsoft. If your development doesn't require the new hardware capabilities of Mango devices, then Microsoft will get you the update and forgo the developer device. Simpkins also adds,
"I think you'll all be happy with what we have coming; it's coming, grasshoppers, I promise. We're as anxious to get this out to you as you are to receive it - it just requires quite a bit of groundwork so that your personal devices stay as safe as possible."
As Watson mentioned in his earlier tweets, this week the focus was on the Press Release, likely to see what bugs the general public and sites like ours could pick up on. We feel confident a pre-release or beta version will get to developers but as to the "when", it's anyone's guess.