At least one research firm believes Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system could face a stiff challenge from a competitor other than Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 7 (WP7).
NPD Group's Connected Intelligence service said Android is the preferred platform among current smartphone owners as well as those who wish to buy a new smartphone in the next 6 months.
With a mindshare of 63 percent, Android generates more interest than any other OS and is the platform 36 percent of consumers claimed to be "most interested in."
For example, the firm said one-third of BlackBerry smartphone owners reported being most interested in an Android smartphone as their next handset. This makes sense with current market activity.
NPD said Android has accounted for at least half of all smartphone buys in the last three quarters. comScore, IDC, Gartner and Nielsen have all pegged Android as having around 40 percent or more market share.
However, Android's lead is far from assured. Connected Intelligence analyst Linda Barrabee said WP7 may pose a greater threat to Android's dominance. Barrabee said 44 percent of smartphone owners and intenders are considering WP7 for their next purchase.
This is good timing for Microsoft, which is expected to see new devices from Samsung and HTC ship with its "Mango" OS, a considerable refinement over the current NoDo build. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said he hoped WP7 would eventually become "a very strong third ecosystem in the smartphone world" alongside Android and the iPhone.
Unfortunately, Barrabee said, Microsoft must overcome some serious brand recognition issues. Some 45 percent of consumers Barrabee surveyed are still not aware of Windows Phone 7.