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Ballmer: 'No question we're early' on mobile

By David Goldman, staff writer

REDMOND, Wash.(CNNMoney.com) -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told software developers on Thursday that his company will prove doubters wrong and succeed in the mobile field, because the smartphone market is still in its infancy.

"We're early; there's no question we're early," Ballmer said at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference. "I think we kind of nailed it. When you see it, you just go 'ooooh.'"

Despite very positive reviews for the recently launched Windows Phone 7, some analysts have been skeptical about Microsoft's ability to to succeed in mobile. Its Windows Mobile platform commands less than 5% of the U.S. market, and the company pulled its badly received Kin devices off the market after just six short weeks.

But Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) says it's not going to back away from Windows Phone 7, because it thinks it has a real winner on its hands. The company also points out that more people will buy smartphones in the next three years than currently own smartphones, according to analysts' forecasts.

That creates a giant customer pool -- and Microsoft plans to market like crazy to those potential buyers.

The campaign began Wednesday night during the first game of the World Series. In a commercial touting Windows Phone 7's ability to get information to users quickly so they can get on with their lives, Microsoft came up with the clever tagline, "A phone that's designed to save us from our phones."

"Make no mistake about it, we're all in," Ballmer declared. "I get all kinds of questions about 'what if you don't do this or that,' or blah, blah, blah. BOOM, baby, that's what we're going to do!"

Still, Ballmer conceded that it's up to app writers to make that happen. He said Microsoft would give every developer in attendance a free smartphone, and pleaded with them to "just load 'em up with applications. You write those apps, drive them forward."

Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) did its part, announcing that it will release a Kindle app for Windows Phone 7 by the end of the year. Developers have already built 1,000 applications for the new operating system, Microsoft said. The current app leader, Apple, has around 250,000.

Ballmer also touted other upcoming Microsoft products, including Internet Explorer 9. Microsoft has gradually lost share in the browser market over the past several years, but the company believes the new version of IE will reverse that streak.

IE9's most innovative new feature taps the PC's graphics chip to take advantage of all of the computer's processing power. That allows developers to create and display significantly richer websites than they can with other browsers. For instance, Microsoft demonstrated that IE9 allows sites to run a HD video as the background, with animated images in the foreground.

PDC, which in years past has been one of Microsoft's most important and widely attended conferences, is relatively small this year, with only a few thousand people making the trip. The event, which is often held in large venues in big cities, is instead being held on Microsoft's main campus.

However, about 30,000 people ate attending PDC events around the world and streaming the event live on their computers, Ballmer said.

The company said the scaled-back PDC is due to this year's focus on cloud computing and mobile, rather than Windows or Microsoft's other, bigger platforms.  To top of page

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