I heard from one of my old Air Force buddies today, one who's loving life in a cozy assignment in Florida just now. This guy's a long-time Rolemaster and D&D 3.5 player, and was part of one of the most campaigns I ever ran. Our gaming tastes are a lot alike, from Rolemaster/MERP to the joy that is Traveller, and I respect his opinions on RPGs deeply.
Anyhow, the conversation turned towards the new D&D Essentials boxed set, and I asked him if he'd played it yet. He said he had--apparently, one of the guys in his shop down there is a big Wizards of the Coast fan, and rounded everyone up for a quick one-shot.
To my surprise, he said it wasn't too bad. He said 4e still wasn't his cup of tea, but he appreciated and respected how WotC was going about trying to get gamers in with the new line. It was a pretty straightforward introduction to some of the tenets that mark 4th Edition D&D, and of course he appreciated the retro cover.
Perhaps the comment that struck me the most is how he wished WotC had taken this approach from the get-go with 4e. Like me, he found the original Keep on the Shadowfell a poorly-designed module and intro to the game. A couple of years later, and here we are.
I haven't read or heard anything about Essentials that makes me want to give it a shot, but I too appreciate the sentiment behind it, at least for the Boxed Set. It sounds like some other folks are taking notice as well.