>in the past i've had to deal with license servers, multi-thousand dollar licenses,
I've never had a problem with the Webpack edition not activating.
>being locked into windows
Apparently most serious folks run the tools on Linux these days. Works fine on RH.
>having to reverse engineer internal formats because the tools wouldn't work for me
Hasn't happened to me, knock on wood. Hopefully they've worked out more corner cases since your time.
>having day-long synthesis/test cycles because their routing was so abysmal, etc
I think this is a given once you get above x% utilization. Newer FPGAs have more interconnect, though.
By keeping it Spartan (heh) they at least avoid the stupidity in the Zynq tools. What good is a "critical warning" that you're supposed to ignore, Xilinx?