Yet Google, Microsoft and others haven't been nearly as effective in differentiating their platform as their competitors at RIM and Apple. Android products not specifically named Droid are more associated with the phone's brand than with the software on it, which Forrester found especially true with HTC phones that hide the OS behind their own interface. Part of the blame rests with service providers such as Sprint and T-Mobile, whose stores and websites are inconsistent in their OS branding of Android and Windows devices.

Much of the blame, though, rests with Google and Microsoft themselves, as Google minimizes and misnames its Android Market logo on its devices and doesn't use the Android logo on its Market page at all. Microsoft, meanwhile, doesn't include a Windows logo anywhere but on the start button of its operating platform. Neither has shown much will or desire to ensure that carriers, independent retailers such as Best Buy ( BBY) and Radio Shack ( RSH) or app developers appropriately market their OS.

This presents several pitfalls for consumers, who may have difficulty downloading the right applications if they have no idea what their OS is and could lose the applications they have if they choose to upgrade to an incompatible device. While Android's success in the smartphone industry is promising for Google and other upstarts, its rapid rise is a warning that many smartphone consumers have the memory of a goldfish -- and that a year from now a weakly branded OS can be just another plastic castle in the tank.

--Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post,, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.

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