I do so love people who talk about how great XP was, considering I remember rather vividly how people complained about it the first couple of years it was on the market. It was slow, bloated, used too much memory, my programs don't work, what are permissions, what are user accounts, what's with these ugly window decorations, there are no drivers for my hardware... Basically take the list of things people used to complain about Vista, and if you look back at the early days of XP, you'll see history repeating itself. Essentially people only are looking at the surface, and not at the deeper reasons. XP was Microsoft's convergence OS, where they moved both business and consumer users onto the same platform. Vista had a large number of under the hood improvements that made it much more efficient on modern hardware, and included a near total rewrite of the Windows UI in the form of Aero to make use of the DirectX API to allow for full 3D hardware acceleration in the Windows UI, as opposed to an antiquated 2D GDI+ system used in XP. Windows 8 is Microsoft trying to again bring platforms together. This time, namely it's Windows Phone and desktop Windows platforms, providing some degree of consistency across all platforms. While I'll be among the first to admit the Modern UI doesn't make a lot of sense on a desktop, as-is anyway, it provides a sort of gentle introduction to the Modern UI, and the hopes are that this will drive sales of smartphones and tablets running Windows. I don't think Microsoft will be unseating Apple or Google in the phone/tablet space any time soon, but that doesn't mean they can't be a profitable third place player in the market.
My bet is that by this time in 2014, everyone will have had time to adapt to the new Modern UI, and no one will think anything of it. In fact, you'll probably see people complaining about the LACK of the Modern UI when they have to work on a legacy Vista or Win 7 machine.
Aside from the missing start button and the addition of the Modern UI, Windows 7 and 8 are nearly identical from the user's perspective. WIndows 8 has a bit more hardware acceleration of the UI, and a number of under the hood improvements, but nothing too significant this time around. People are making way too big a deal out of this, and it's largely out of a simple fear of the unknown. Time marches ever onward, so you can either keep up or get left behind. Ask companies that spent ruinous amounts of money on Y2K fixes about the virtues of getting left behind.