Disclaimer, I work from MSFT but do not speak for them. You and this fifth of Brandy just pushed my button. Win8 sucked less, but Win8 was also the penultimate failure because it showed how little we learned about the market.
Vista and Win8 both failed but for wildly different reasons. Vista was the ultimate brainchild of Bill Gates. It was his "parting gift" to the company if you will, a long range roadmap from XP to what became Windows 7. Vista was being created in the time when blogging was just taking off. The Windows division seemed to go full bore out there, building this huge hype engine. There was tons of spin on product ideas that were nothing more than sketches. Some might remember WinFS, supposed to be a SQL engine to replace the NT file system. That just never got to where it's vision said it needed to be. Meanwhile a company called internic was learning these same lessons - build a index engine to make all content searchable - and from there Google was born. Vista was overhyped to the hilt.
In the age after Billg, Ballmer certainly had his pluses, but he was no bill. With no technical vision, divisions within Microsoft started walling off their fiefdoms, all while Vista is being built. Less and less collaboration yielded longer product cycles and feature cut after feature cut. There was an internal spoof of the Monty Python holy grail guy fighting on after getting his legs & arms chopped off, that was like what was happening to Vista. When it released, it was a complete compromise master at nothing. A badly scribbled page of half baked visions, a hot mess IMO.
You are right JAFO, Win7 is essentially a repaired version of Vista. A lot of the binaries are still versioned at 6.1 even today. With Win7, Microsoft was learning to listen to customers rather than expect a grand unified vision to come from somewhere. But still, the P&G boxed cake salesman had not one lick of technical sense, so he totally missed the iPod/iPhone/iPad wave. He wanted to rest on his market share and focus on taking over new markets (eg - the Yahoo thing). I flipped the bit on this guy when he cancelled the Courier. On the eve of the iPad release, this guy cancels an incredible device that would have been a huge competitor to the iPad. We loose this huge opportunity and with it one of the greatest braintrusts we had, J Allard. Maybe I'm too hard on him, Ballmer did some great things for Microsoft, and I loved him for his passion. But boy was he a rockhead on the technical strategy side.
So then the iPad takes over and Microsoft goes into this panic funk, kind of a chronic sense of gloom. We need a killer OS so what do we do - we shut down those feedback loops that made Win7 awesome, we welded the doors shut and let no one see in. The first day I used Win8 I was really disoriented without the start menu- a guy with decades in IT gets confused is not a good sign. In many ways metro is technically superior than all the other application models out there. But since we're not getting feedback we miss on some big stuff, like the start menu. Sinofsky I tell you, was a tremendous leader. All of these camps and fiefdoms that sprang up in the neo-billg era fought him, and he fought back. RedneckDude, you are right on, Win8 is FAR superior in almost all technical respects to Win7, let alone Linux whatever flavor, let alone IOS which is essentially a really well executed Win3.1 user experience.
SO we're in the odd-numbered, listen to your customer era again. There's some differences now, we have been humbled. There is no billlg like he was back in the day. I see his vision as a large reason Google exists today, and of course the modern Apple of Steve Jobs that he helped launch is also gone RIP. Up through Win8, we owe **all** of this to billg. Jobs, Google, tablets, clouds, all of it. You could even say Linux/open source itself was born out of hate for billg's vision.
But now there's Satya. I first saw this guy to some presentations at internal conferences. When I heard his name had come up for CEO I thought no way, this guy just doesn't have the asshole-ability of a great leader. Looking at what he did with Azure, boy was I ever wrong. The things he's done in his short time have really been seminal. Microsoft isn't what it was in the past, and I'll go farther - I don't think operating systems are going to be what they were in the past either. I just hope there's always a PC, a giant box that I can cram a 100 gigs of ram and bunch of video cards into, and have this huge choice of apps and peripherals that I can choose from, with a vibrant community of devs like Stardock behind it. THAT is what I love about the PC, personally. You don't get that anywhere else - Apple is to closed and Linux just can't get their shit together like MSFT can.
You know, this unified OS model we're working on these days is pretty amazing, one platform runs everything from your big screen on down. You could argue that Linux did it first but look around where is Linux? Yeh its everywhere but where is it as a platform, as a brand? Can I have one ineraction interface (one app, one code model) to use across my car, printer, phone, thermostat, watch? No. Andriod is a fragmented jungle of a market with no consistency of approach and apple is all about consistency of approach at the expense of market innovation. Microsoft sits in the middle of that, with a fully portable code model we can unify across any form factor. (That's the official goal I hear). And we've got the partners to get it done - Like Xamarin, Unity, Stardock:), etc.
I am part of MSFT but I work in the field. I'm in the dark pretty much like you, maybe my seats aren't quite as cheap though. I like the direction that Windows 9 is taking in general. On the public leaks - I have no idea what's true. I really like the direction that the cloud is going in general, our cloud and amazon, all of them. And look at Office - it runs on whatever platform you happen to be using, and your content is always right there with you. The platform is the future, the OS and its hardware are merely interesting choices you make. Cortana, Siri and Google Now are far better metaphors than "Disk Operating System" these days. Gaming and Productivity will drive that future more and more into the cloud. Think about a game of GC where your local world is connected to this huge web of other games, where you're playing the game whenever, wherever you are on whatever device you're using, and maybe your trading ship designs with other gamers or maybe fighting off the Alterians on your buddy's galactic fringe, and maybe Cortana is back there telling you where to take your corporate mercenaries next. That's the promise of the cloud.
I'm proud to wear this badge, and that's largely because of Satya. The old Microsoft is dead - long live Microsoft. Stay tuned! If I can say just one thing officially - thank you for hanging, and PLEASE keep bitching about MSFT mistakes. Louder / better. Your voice gets heard, in how you spend your money but also in much quieter, smaller ways, like this forum.