Is Windows 8 succeeding? We still don't know for sure, but at least part-time Microsoft chairman Bill Gates seems pleased with the progress of the new operating system. When CNBC asked him whether he'd ever return to Microsoft as CEO — not so subtly implying that the company could use more of his help — Gates said that both Windows 8 and the Surface tablet were doing "well," and without his full-time input.

Microsoft says it's sold 60 million licenses for Windows 8 so far, but it's not clear whether that translates to human beings actually buying the OS. Market research firm NPD suggests that Windows 8 isn't helping a declining trend in PC sales, at least one partner (Fujitsu) isn't happy with its performance, and sales are reportedly south of Microsoft's internal projections.

Still, there's time for the new paradigm to catch on. After all, Windows 1.0 famously flopped. And in two weeks, the company will launch its Intel-powered Surface Pro tablet, which could point to the true future of Microsoft.