I've said some time ago that I personally would have preferred if IE8 was in standard mode by default, that it made more sense in the long run at the price of moderate suffering in the short term.
Well, it seems like announcing the "meta-tag" user agent switch well before the first public release of the new browser wasn't a random decision. The idea really was to stir up the debate well in advance and make it possible to revert their decision if the community reached a consensus that it was a bad one.
And they just did. A few months later, the community almost unanimously rejected the idea more or less strongly and the IE team decided to follow that consensus and make the browser use the potentially breaking standard mode the default. It could be argued that the community really is the most vocal part of the developer audience and that they may and do have different opinions and preoccupations from the silent, real-world developers out there.
Still, I think the IE team showed vision in announcing this enough in advance that they could act on the feedback, and great courage on potentially alienating some of their customers, just so they could do The Right Thing.
Kudos, I'm impressed and glad that you guys are in command of the fate of IE.