For Microsoft, 2012 will be marked by one major event: the release of Windows 8. The operating system, which is scheduled to hit store shelves toward the end of the year, is already available to developers, and on Feb. 29, the software giant delivered Windows 8 to everyone else through its Consumer Preview. The latest release, at least in the way Microsoft tells it, is a major step forward for its operating system, and one that, in the coming weeks, could make consumers quite happy.But it’s not just consumers. By the look of things, it appears both consumers and enterprise users will be quite pleased with Windows 8. From its application integration to an outstanding new design, there are an awful lot of things to like about Windows 8. Believe it or not, Microsoft’s latest operating system launch might just be the very best version of the software yet.

Whether it’s consumers, application developers or IT professionals, there are several reasons Windows 8 might prove a winner with a wide group of users.

1. The integration across all platforms is great

Microsoft says that Windows 8 will deliver the same experience across a wide array of devices. So, if consumers or enterprise users are engaging with the platform on a tablet, they’ll have the same experience when they boot up their new Ultrabook. It’s a smart idea, and something that we haven’t quite seen elsewhere in the mobile space.

2. Windows to Go is a winner

Microsoft’s Windows 8 Consumer Preview event was all conducted on a Windows 7 PC. However, the software giant said that the Consumer Preview was driving its presentation, thanks to a USB stick running Windows 8. Microsoft’s Windows to Go, which allowed Microsoft to do that, provides users with the ability to bring a Windows 8 installation with them wherever they go. It’s an exciting new feature.

3. Security, security, security

Microsoft is undoubtedly concerned about security. And with Windows 8, the company has spared no expense for getting it right. In fact, some reports claim that when Windows 8 launches, users will only need the built-in security features to keep their computers safe.

4. The design won’t throw you off

Some people have expressed concern with Windows 8’s design, saying that it’s too different from Windows 7 and other previous operating systems to warrant its use. However, Microsoft has guaranteed that it will feel intuitive, and the operating system also includes legacy user-interface support for those that are a bit more nostalgic.

5. App integration seems stellar

At Mobile World Congress, Microsoft showed how the different applications available in its Windows Store are designed to work together without talking to each other. Such a design improves overall security, but also delivers a full-featured experience that should ultimately increase productivity across the software.

6. It’s ideal for the enterprise

All this talk of apps and design should give you one very clear message: The operating system will be a winner among enterprise users. From the fact that Windows 8 will be far more secure than its predecessor to the realization that Microsoft is going in a completely new direction, Microsoft’s Windows 8 might just be a winner among IT decision-makers.

7. It’s a viable iOS alternative

Although Microsoft hasn’t made serious inroads into the tablet space just yet, it plans to do just that with Windows 8. And as mentioned, Windows 8 has some serious promise. Add that to the many hardware vendors that are already saying they’ll bundle Windows 8 with their tablets, and it quickly becomes clear Apple’s iPad might have some serious competition coming its way.

8. The first operating system to bridge the gap?

When we look around the computing market right now, it’s hard to find a single company that can effectively bridge the gap between tablets and other mobile products, and the desktop. Apple offers two operating systems to appeal to those markets, and Google does the same. But Microsoft is focusing heavily on convergence with Windows 8, and the operating system might just prove to be the single platform to bridge the great divide between tablets and laptops.

9. Boot-up times are top-notch

One of the worst things about Windows 7 is waiting for the computer to start up. But with Windows 8, Microsoft has implemented a quick boot time that, on some Ultrabooks, can take only eight seconds. What’s more, the company says that it will no longer require so many restarts after system updates. It’s a smart move on Microsoft’s part that could dramatically improve Windows 8 adoption.

10. It’s all about the cloud

Windows 8 will come with full support for the company’s cloud-based solution SkyDrive. In fact, Windows 8’s cloud solutions will help users sync content across multiple Windows 8 devices, manage profiles and more. At the end of the day, it’s all about the cloud in today’s operating system market, and Microsoft knows that very well.