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CES: Ballmer On Windows 7 Phone: ‘Job Number 1 Is Showing It To People’

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Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) may have cracked the mobile code with its new Windows Phone 7 OS but it’s not quite there when it comes to actual consumer sales. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer didn’t say that specifically in his traditional pre-CES keynote, of course. After some announcements about pending updates, including the vital addition of copy-and-paste and multi-task performance improvements, and a promise to invest aggressively in development, the bulk of the mobile section came off more like Home Shopping Network meets Best Buy.

The result was a re-run for people who went through the launch just a couple of months ago and a demo to show why consumers, especially women, should be want a phone that so far is being bought mostly by businesses. Instead of wowing with what’s coming, Ballmer was selling a product that’s in the stores. Why? “Job #1 is showing this new phone to people. What we find is once people see the phone, they fall in love with it.”

The real pitch was left to zealous runner, mom and Windows Phone team member Liz Sloan, who went through seven things about “that are great for people like us” including how to find the nearest In-N-Out. (As she went about planning a team dinner there, I had a flashback to Jerry Yang on the same stage showing all the cool things you’d be able to do with Yahoo’s mobile widgets, like arrange dinner. That was 2008.)

App growth: At its current pace, Microsoft is nearly two months away from breaking 10,000 apps for Windows Phone 7. During his pre-CES keynote Wednesday night, CEO Steve Ballmer said the app store has more than 5,500 apps and is “typically” adding more than 100 a day. That looks like bupkes compared to more established stores — Android, the hardest to maneuver, has an estimated 200,000 while the iPhone has more than 300,000 — but it’s been growing at a faster pace than either of those did to start.

Ballmer said more than half of the users download an app every day. That, too, could put them ahead of the estimated averages for rivals: a survey of users last fall suggested iPhone users had an average of 40 apps while Android users averaged 25 and Blackberry users had 14. More than 20,000 developers have registered with Microsoft.