Microsoft unexpectedly released sales figures for its Windows Phone devices today. Recently, they had stated they would not release these numbers until CES or even later. However, with the given criticism that Microsoft has received of not discussing sales figures, Microsoft may have been moved to release the numbers earlier than expected. Microsoft announced that it has sold 1.5 Million devices in the past six weeks of availability to manufacturers and telcos. That brings the number of phones sold per day to a little over 35,000 devices. It’s not bad, but Apple is selling over 300,000 devices per day using the same measurement. Also, that original 40,000 devices sold on the first day figure can probably now be disproven as well (if it wasn’t already).

The news, of course, is neither positive or negative. First, these ‘sales’ are only what Microsoft has distributed, not technically sold to the end-user, and are also the same measures that Apple and Google use when they announce their stellar sales figures, so this is an Apple-to-Apple comparison. However, given the fact that this is a new version, the sales figures could better be compared to Apple’s first gen iPhone, which sold a mere 1 million units in its first 74 days, compared to Microsoft selling 1.5 million Windows Phone devices in only 42 days. Microsoft also states that the numbers are right on line for what they had believed given the device being completely new to the market.

It’s also worth mentioning that I think this is still a soft-launch as the devices are currently only sold on two networks. Mary Jo Foley appears to agree with this as well, even though most of the mainstream media disagrees for one reason or another. I think once the devices start selling on the Sprint network, and more importantly, the Verizon network, Windows Phone will start to take off.

Of course, Microsoft is in this for the long run, as Michael Berg pointed out in the news release. This has been reiterated several times in the tech media and is how I think Microsoft will be approaching Windows Phone over the next several months and even years. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a Microsoft KIN here.

Microsoft has unleashed an ad campaign to push Windows Phone sales through AT&T. However, I haven’t seen much on the T-Mobile front, and it would be very interesting to compare the numbers that are being sold with AT&T service versus T-Mobile service. I’m not holding my breath for those numbers, but I can almost guess that AT&T surpasses T-Mobile.

The Microsoft “Really” ads have also helped promote the Windows Phone OS as a whole, illustrating the new concept of Windows Phone getting work done quicker so that you can spend more time doing what you want to do. (Though, Lance Ulanoff over at PCMag would disagree saying that they send the wrong message.)

Microsoft is expected to release an update to Windows Phone sometime early 2011. Some rumors hold it as a February release, or even as early as January. The first update in 2011 should bring forth Cut & Paste, but not a whole lot of other new features. The second update in 2011 should bring about several feature changes to Windows Phone. Microsoft has continually stated that they will update the Windows Phone OS on a regular basis, and mobile carriers will only be able to block one update to Windows Phone.