With each passing day, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is becoming more like Microsoft as Android becomes the Windows of the mobile world.

New data from researcher Canalys show that while Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone is now the top-selling handset in the U.S., combined sales of Android handsets from HTC, Motorola, and others -- collectively part of the Open Handset Alliance  -- now account for roughly 44% of the U.S. market:

"Android has been well received by the market and in some geographies it is becoming a sought-after consumer brand. It has rapidly become the platform to watch, and its growing volumes will help to entice developers, ensuring consumers have access to an increasingly rich and vibrant mobile content and application ecosystem," Canalys senior analyst Pete Cunningham said in a press release.

But again, Android isn't the only winner here. Both Apple's and Google's gains have come at the expense of Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM), Canalys said in its report. For years, the company behind the BlackBerry line of smartphones led the North American market. Now, the iPhone and Android phones are surging in front of it.

A short-lived victory for the iOS
Trouble is, when you look at operating systems rather than handsets, Android is gaining share so fast that Apple is either going to have to license iOS, or sign more carrier deals to keep up. The latter is the only realistic option, and both Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) know it.

The implication? Neither carrier is going to pay what AT&T (NYSE: T) did in order to win an iPhone distribution agreement. Instead, it's Apple that I believe will sacrifice some points of profit margin in order to bring the iPhone to Verizon's network next year. Given Android's continuing success, the company has little other choice.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. How much margin will Apple sacrifice in order to put the iPhone on Verizon and other U.S. carrier networks? Let us know by voting in the poll below and then leave a comment to explain your thinking.

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