Windows long term strategy and Windows 8 questions...

I got my first real look at Windows 8 today. My mother's Dell bit the dust so we ventured to the local Best Buy and purchased a new Asus laptop with enough specs to keep her going for the next few years - she's not what I would call a "power user" but it was a nice device none-the-less. We got the computer back to her house, I opened the box and set everything up. I've purchased enough computers in my life to know I would need to spend the next three hours removing garbage and installing updates... so, I did. I'm still flabbergasted when I realize computer manufactures disable/hide Windows Defender/Security Essentials to only then install McAfee and try to charge you $100/year for the exact same feature. But I digress.

Now, I'm a Mac user. I switched a few years back and have been very happy since. I have nothing against Windows. I use it frequently at work and have found Windows 7 to be a most enjoyable update. But for my personal computing needs I find OS X to be much more reliable. It "just works" (for me) and I much more prefer the sleek design OS X offers (subjective, I know). But, truly, I consider myself OS agnostic. My professional life revolves completely around computers. I have designed and coded websites, I am a video editor, I code javascript for a number of projects, and I've just dove head first into networking a few months ago (eek!). But I will work on whatever OS allows me to do these things most effective and efficiently.

So after my Windows 8 experience today I was left with a number of questions. But first, I must say, Windows 8 is a trip. I read a few reviews of Windows 8 and watch a few video demos before today but it was nothing like my hands on experience. I was very frustrated at first. Why the hell did they make the control panel so freaking hard to find?! But as I began to navigate around it began to make a lot more sense. Three hours in I actually liked the thing! It still feels like a work in process but the overall design, layout and concept is very nice.

But what I'm having the most difficult time understanding is the split nature of the new Windows. It feels like the "Start" menu is a virtual machine running on top the of main OS. Two versions of Internet Explorer - one for the task bar and one for the start screen? I don't get the point. What is Microsoft trying to do? Is this what the whole "Pro vs RT" debate is about in regards to the surface? My best guess (and please tell me if I'm anywhere near reality) is they are intending to scrap all old Windows code and build fresh - and this is the stop gap. I've heard (probably incorrectly) that the Windows core was never originally intended for networks like the Web and it has inherent flaws in its methodology for processing network traffic which makes it "clunky". I'm way beyond my expertise at this point and wanted to hear from the community whats up with all this new hotness. Either way, Windows 8 intriges me. I'm interested to try it again.