Now I know that the bulk of the good folk who skim my blog don't play D&D 4E. Regardless, after flipping through Heroes of Shadow at my local store it was weird to see a book that had character options laid out more like Essentials but without that tag on the book AND in the large hardcover format.
I'll be honest, my initial reaction was screw you WotC, you've now resolved to lying to your customer base by trying to sell an Essentials book to a non Essentials fan. I've picked up the Essentials Rules Compendium as it's the 4e rule set with all of the eratta. I haven't read anything from the Essentials DM Kit or Monsters Vault and am not sure how they might differ from the "standard" 4E DM Guides and Monster Manuals from a mechanical stand point.
Is the Essentials line really 4.5? Not really. I see it as Wizards trying to make roping in the new guy less intimidating and with "simplified" leveling up that I guess is more akin to 1st Ed(?). Unfortunately, it seems like the end result was mostly just another line in the sand to be drawn for many. Personally, I've only experienced Essentials at Wednesday Night Encounters. The folk who play it love it. I've enjoyed it when I do go out to play. What needs to happen is for Essentials to stop being viewed by the players as another game but as another way for Character Classes to advance when they level up. But from my personal experience, I've never seen or actually heard about any table that has a combination of players who've built their characters from the Players Handbooks AND the Essentials books. The guilty forces in my opinion? The mindset of the optimizer/power gamer.