... I see it as a nearly clean break from the past. Microsoft is clearly throwing in the towel on the desktop market, and sees it rapidly declining into a niche market (developers, multimedia editors, etc.). Basically, they see desktop app users becoming at best a bit more common than OS X users, and everyone else moving to Web apps or the tablet (or tablet + docking station) model. If you don't like it, they'll be more than happy to let you sit on Windows 7 for as long as folks sat on XP.
Indeed, I suspect it was the folks who had the "you can't pry XP from my cold, dead fingers" that finally made Microsoft just go all-in on Windows 8 being a clean break. Why invest resources in trying to improve a desktop model that, for all intents and purposes, is more than feature complete, really can't become any more stable or secure given the base assumptions of the OS that the applications depend on being there, etc. when users will yawn and not upgrade anyways? What would they do to Windows 8 that Windows 7 doesn't already do? Windows is at the point that Office reached 10 - 15 years ago, where "upgrades" barely even changed the color of the car. Windows 7 was a refinement to Vista. Vista was a refinement (mostly security based) to XP. Most of the non-security things that came in Vista/Windows 7 went unused or underappreciated (Silverlight/WPF, the identity stuff, Media Center, etc. etc. etc.).
The market has spoken clearly, the desktop model holds no interest for most folks, so long as they can continue using the 1 - 3 native apps (at most!) that they need. Dump Office and only an extraordinarily few people on the consumer end, and increasingly fewer people on the enterprise end need the desktop at all.
In nutshell... if you currently use Windows 7 in a manner that you couldn't easily switch to OS X, *Nix desktop, an iPad, an Android tablet, etc., then Windows 8 isn't for you anyways. If your workload is basically Windows-independent, then Windows 8 can be a good to great move for you, depending on your hardware and work style.
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