RE: What happened to the hardware abstraction layer that gets out of the way of running programs?
Microsoft saw what happened to the ISP's, from whom what we all really want is a dumb-pipe service where we can pull data and they get out of our way. It's a race to the bottom and there's no money there.
Look at all the advertising there is scattered throughout the Windows ecosystem now. Look at all the various licences and subscriptions. Microsoft know full well that if all they do is sell you a piece of software - once - that you install - once - and then it goes into the background and you don't even know that it's there... that is _not_ the way to maximize profit, indeed, it could be enough to see them fade into irrelevance.
They know they have to be all up in everyone's face to stay relevant... the problem is that they don't know how to do that in any other way than "Run around changing things like crazy so people keep paying attention" The message "There's no such thing as bad publicity" seems to have taken hold, and much to their detriment.