There have been some interesting debates going on online as to whether Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft to use Windows Phone 7 is a smart move (and good for developers) or the death throes of the Finnish giant.

It does make great sense to me.

Nokia only had a limited hand to play. It could stay on its present course, weighed down by an RnD budget that was producing nothing of any consequence as far as the market was concerned, amazing when it’s spending more than $4bn and three times that of Apple. Keep faith in Symbian and pin hopes on MeeGo, which despite Marko Ahtisaari’s (VP of UX) fine set of skills, was looking more and more like the product of a moribund giant. So, a slow death.

An alternative was Google and Android. However, the opportunities to differentiate for Nokia would be limited in such a diverse and crowded space. The upside would be apps and developers galore but the hardware battle would be extremely tough, even for a fighting fit company, not something you say about Nokia presently. And the uplift in marketing from Google would be limited at best. So, better than slow death but definitely relegating it to second or third tier in the mobile world.

Finally, the choice the company did make.

The marketing power from Microsoft alone makes this a good choice. The software giant is desperate to gain a significant foothold in the mobile space, which will become the most important platform for consumers and business alike over the next 3 years. In Windows Phone 7, it has made a great start. In my opinion, it’s the leading mobile OS in terms of UX and design and presents a credible challenge to Android and iOS. That makes two big plus points.

The rest is down to Nokia itself. If it can get back to making fewer and better handsets, powered by Windows Phone 7 and cheaper to boot, then with its installed base the company could pull itself out of the mess. However, handsets have to now be one of two things: Really simple and cheap or beautifully designed and integrated with the OS. Nokia can do both but it has to stop making such a diverse and often crappy range of handsets and focus.

Apple, Google and Nokia/Microsoft should make for a great battle and hopefully consumers will be the winners!