Android's share of mobile OS market surges

But RIM's BlackBerry still leads market, with Apple close behind

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New research from The Nielsen Company shows that U.S. consumers who bought a smartphone in the past six months went with a device using Google's Android more than any other mobile OS.

Nearly one in three (32%) smartphones purchased in the six months through August came with the Android OS, with 26 percent of American buyers choosing RIM's BlackBerry and 25 percent opting for Apple's iPhone.

It's the second consecutive month in which Android topped Nielsen's U.S. mobile OS market share rankings. Back in February, only 15 percent of smartphone purchasers opted for an Android-powered device. That's impressive progress.

Overall, RIM still holds the mobile OS market lead with 31 percent, with the iPhone closing the gap at 28 percent and Android at 19 percent (up from 8 percent in February), but gaining fast.

What's missing from this data, of course, is Microsoft. You know you've got a problem when you're lumped into the also-ran category, which is where Microsoft finds itself these days, as noted by Goldman Sachs in its recent downgrading of Microsoft shares. The latest OS market share data from comScore shows Microsoft with 11.8 percent of the mobile OS market in August, down from 14.0 percent in April and ahead of only Palm (4.9 percent).

As I've written in recent days, Microsoft hopes to reverse its declining mobile OS fortunes with the upcoming release of Windows Phone 7 and some aggressive legal tactics (a patent lawsuit against Motorola). If Redmond can't show gains in OS market share by early next year -- after the WP7 rollout and marketing blitz -- it's going to be in big trouble.

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