You have a rather selective memory it seems. Windows 95 wasn't overly well received being a rather radical departure from the old Windows 3.x interface. Then by the time Windows98 came around, people had had time to adjust and accept it, so Win98 was pretty well accepted. Then Win Me basically seems to have been disliked because Microsoft moved some things around interface wise. I've never been able to come across any other credible complaints beyond the "It crashed when I plugged in some dodgy bit of hardware!" garbage.
Windows 2000 was part of the NT family, so was more of a parallel evolution of Windows. NT4 before it was pretty well received, as was NT 3.51 before that. For that matter, Windows 2000 was pretty well received, and a large number of companies refused to give up on it when it was originally set to hit EOL, so Microsoft extended it.
Windows XP is basically just Windows 2000 with the Luna theme system, and people hated XP when it first came out because the hardware at the time wasn't up to the task of running it. But seriously, if you switch to the "classic" theme on XP, remove all obvious means of telling them apart, and set an XP and 2000 box side by side, even someone who has used them both for years would have a hard time saying definitively which was which.
Windows Vista got a bad rap for being too long in development and most of the features being under the hood improvements like a much improved process scheduler and a much hardened driver model. The only truly visible feature was Aero, which was a lot for integrated graphics chips at the time to handle, but nonetheless paved the way for a lot of improvements down the road. And if you need more proof, there was Microsoft's little "sting" operation where they just changed all the references to Vista and told people that it was some new operating system they were testing. People LOVED it before they knew it was just plain old Vista. Vista was an OS that was designed to lay the groundwork for where things were heading, not so much where they were right then. You can knock Microsoft for being overly ambitious and hyping features that ultimately had to be jettisoned in order to get the product out the door, but Vista as an OS was very solid and reliable. Much more so than XP.
Windows 7 is much the same as Windows XP, it's just a warmed over Vista, with the only significant difference being the new taskbar. There are some refinements of the under the hood improvements made in Vista, but really the only visible difference is the new taskbar.
What you often find, are people who buy cheap, low end computers, who then complain because it can't handle all the high end whiz-bang features of a new OS. Or they have some piece of crap hardware, and blame the software because they don't know how to properly diagnose the problem. All they see is maybe a BSOD error, and so they assume it must be a Windows issue. They never consider that ANY operating system would crash because the hardware is faulty.
There's also the way Microsoft develops Windows. Every other release is what they call a major release, which will have significant new features/changes. Windows95 was a major release, and Windows98 was a minor release, then Windows Me was another major release. On the NT side of things, Windows 2000 was a major release, and XP was a minor release (but most people think it was a major release because it marked the convergence of the Windows for home and Windows for business into a single OS). Vista was then another major release, and 7 was a minor release. Typically major releases come out every 3 years, minor releases about every 1.5 years. Vista kind of broke that model a little, but Windows 7 was more or less right on schedule despite all the claims about how Microsoft was rushing to replace Vista. Same with Windows 8, it is another major release, and you're seeing some rather disruptive changes like the Metro UI, the removal of the Start menu, etc.
There are a multitude of reasons to knock Microsoft and Windows, but it really doesn't do anyone any good when you construct your own narrative based on extremely incomplete information, then try and pass it off as some kind of great illumination. The reality is quite simply that XP is so beloved by people now because they have had 10 years to become attached. You go back and read some of the early reviews of XP, you'll probably find a lot of similarities with the reviews of Vista. It's slow, bloated, programs don't work, hardware support is poor, why does it need like 2X the hardware to do the same things Win9x could do, etc. You have to remember that Microsoft is going to be stuck supporting every Windows release for many years after most of us have long since moved on to something else. They also are looking to create a product that is compelling enough for people to buy the better part of two years from release date, when the next version comes out. So it is not enough to simply aim for where things are in the computing world at the time of development (which you also have to remember is not an instantaneous process, but takes several years), you have to try and predict where things are going. Microsoft rather missed the mark in a big way with XP, completely failing to see the rise of multimedia the same way they missed the mark on the Internet. That's why Aero was born, because the old 2D GDI+ UI of XP was simply not going to be up to the task. Microsoft needed something to counter Apple's Aqua UI and help third party developers rather than get in their way.
Now if you want to skip Windows 8, that's your choice. You can opt not to buy it for whatever reason you want, right down to not liking the color of the shoelaces on Bill Gates' shoes. Just spare the rest of us the flimsy attempts at justifying your decision by passive-aggressive bandwagon solicitations. You do not have to buy Windows 8, and you do not have to justify it to anyone but yourself. Why is that not enough for you?
Since it seem that every other release of Windows is crap, should we even be considering Windows 8? Consider:
Windows 95 - OK
Windows 2000 - crap
Windows XP - great (now, at least)
Windows Vista - yuk!
Windows 7 - not bad, I hear
Personally, I'm still managing to survive on Windows XP