Update 26 October 2013
All of this has been overcome by events (OBE) as noted in this post: http://blogbeebe.blogspot.com/2013/10/ubuntu-1310-windows-81-vmware-player.html
tl;dr - It's all fixed now.
It hardly took any time at all for me to download the Ubuntu 13.10 ISO file and install the latest Ubuntu as a virtual machine on VMware Player 6 running on my shiny new Windows 8.1 system. For the most part it's been error and trouble free. Except for one issue, which I'll get to shortly. But first, all the good news.
I've read the various "reviews" [sic] from the various online tech pubs, most notably Ars Technica, and the general consensus is "meh." There are times where meh is a Good Thing. The one feature (if you want to call it that) about Ubuntu 13.10 is the polish applied to 13.04. Just as Windows 8.1 can be considered a polished Windows 8, instead of a major new upgrade. In the pell-mell rush to release software to stay ahead of everyone else, too much software suffers with regards to quality, especially the user experience. The quality of Ubuntu (which to be fair, was already pretty good) has been pushed up several notches with this release.
The quality of this release is so good that it matches my current excellent experiences with Linux Mint 15 (Linux Mint 15 is a cleaned up Ubuntu 13.04 release). This Ubuntu release has a reasonably current kernel (3.11) and a decent gcc release (4.8) that supports C++11. The Unity desktop is fast and fluid, and I've grown used to its features and organization (I am, after all, a happy Windows 8 user). Ubuntu 13.10 is, in my not so humble opinion, a stellar release. So good, in fact, that it has replaced Fedora 19, and Fedora in general.
There is, however, just one little problem.
Upgrading to Windows 8.1 with VMware Player 6 has broken networking with all my virtual machines. This causes two key problems: (1) updates are broken, and (2) I can't use the VMs as networked test machines. I can still do any development that doesn't require networking outside of the VM, and if I need to download a specific application, such as Oracle's Java, I can download it via Windows 8.1 and then drag-and-drop the file into the running VM.
Another problem is that the current VMware tools, that must be built to enable directory sharing with the host machine, won't compile that specific kernel module. Again, with drag-and-drop it's not such a big issue. Working with Ubuntu 13.10, as with Linux Mint 15, is such a pleasant experience I don't mind. This is not a Linux issue, this is a VMware Player issue. Perhaps it's time for me to transition to Windows' Hyper-V.
Haters Gonna Hate
It has been a long time (2007, six years, check the table of contents) since I wrestled with Ubuntu (7.04, 7.10, and then 8.04) before I finally just gave up. I could see the potential, but for me the full potential was never realized.
Time heals all wounds, and technology advances relentlessly to the point where my complaints of six years ago are totally irrelevant today. I attribute Ubuntu's positive advances in part to Mark Shuttleworth's decision to move away from the glacial plodding center of Linux-based distributions. Two examples of this are the Unity desktop and Mir, the display server to replace X. There's been a spat recently over Mir. That's because it's not Wayland, the other officially sanctioned display server to replace X. Reading the reasons and issues, it appears that Shuttleworth is deciding to hew more to what has worked successfully with Android, especially on ARM, as that's where Ubuntu is headed (phones, tablets, personal computers, etc, across multiple processor architectures). Following Android to a certain extent is actually a pretty good idea, as Android is the single most successful Linux-based distribution on the planet, in spite of all its haters.
And those technology advances? Operating systems are no longer an island. Ubuntu's lack of "standard" applications are far less relevant today, especially with such services/applications as Google Docs, which requires a standards compliant browser to use, such as Firefox and Google's own Chrome browser. And Ubuntu is now filling in the "gaps" with its own app store. And I have no doubt that someone, somewhere is going to write the equivalent of BlueStacks for Ubuntu to allow Android apps to run on the Unity desktop (assuming it hasn't been done already; after all, what do I know?)
With the current maturity of virtual machine software, if you really need that Windows application or that Office workflow, then there's nothing stopping you from installing Ubuntu as a host, then Windows as a guest OS with its tools. If you don't need that kind of capability, then you'll find yourself well served with a bog standard Ubuntu (or Linux Mint) installation.
Just remember to ignore the haters (both Linux and Windows) and think for yourself.