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Microsoft faces Android juggernaut

A market-dominating Microsoft smartphone may not be in the cards.

A killer Microsoft smartphone may always be out of reach. And Microsoft should understand this better than anyone.

Toshiba's TG01 Phone is slick, but it runs Windows, not Android, and that's a problem. Microsoft

Manufacturers and consumers of highly interactive computing devices--be they PCs or smartphones--naturally congregate around a common, widely supported operating system. Of course, that has been Windows or Apple software in the personal computing--i.e., laptop/desktop--world. Now it's Google's Android and Apple's iPhone OS in the smartphone space.

The instant demise of Microsoft's Kin phone is one facet of the challenge Microsoft faces. The broader issue is that Redmond is up against the same kind of juggernaut in smartphones that it created (and still maintains) in PCs.

The fear is that Android (or analogous software like the Chrome OS) and Apple software eventually become the de facto operating environments for more smart devices like tablets or tweener products like large-screen smartphones (the Dell Streak, for instance, is Android based). And that these new-fangled "PCs" begin to erode sales of more traditional PCs. Apple, some would say, sees the writing on the wall and is now putting most of its eggs in the iPhone/iPad basket.

But Apple is not necessarily the enemy for Microsoft. It's Google and Android and the host of phone makers that are adopting Android.

Put simply, the Motorola Droid X is a perfect symbol of what Microsoft can't do--build an attractive high-end smartphone that runs Android.

That doesn't mean Microsoft is in its death throes: laptops and servers will be popular for a long time. But it does mean the company may face a future where it's not the big player in one of the most innovative and exciting personal computing categories for many years to come.