Compared with XP, 7 just isnt really better. I cant think of a single new thing off hand (not that there arent any,
Windows 7 and Vista have vast improvements over XP. As a power Windows user I immediately notied a ton of improvements in Vista and never wanted to go back to XP again...but this was not how most people perceived it. The problem is that they were mostly features that work "under the hood" and are only noticed by power users and developers. All regular users see is the eyecandy and they assume that's all there is to the new Windows version. For example, moving the audio drives from the kernel to user mode prevents a lot of blue screens that were caused by audio drivers in XP (especially from Creative!). Nothing about this jumps out at users except the fact that they need to install different audio drivers on Vista (which makes people think XP was better because they didn't need new drivers for ther hardware).
Of course, they DID remove the ability to install a decent recovery console to the hard drive
Recovery Console was an absolute piece of garbage. It was very restricted and had a very limited set of commands which often made it inneficient or even useless for fixing many Windows problems. The local install of Recovery Console was installed alongside the Windows system on the hard disk, and so it would often fail to boot along with the local Windows installation (ie. damaged CONFIG registry hive or blue screening disk driver). So it couldn't be used in many of the situations where you'd expect it to be useful. Most power Windows users would have a PE disc which they would boot to perform any real repair work. Vista and 7 use WinRE allows you to boot a full Windows system and run a full subset of Windows tools and drivers (like the PE disc but less complicated to get things working). It can be installed locally but it's more complicated to do since it requires it's own partition (unlike Recovery Console which was just in a directory on the local file system).
and completely ruined boot.ini in favor of the disaster that is bcd
Although boot.ini and NTLDR were easier to manage they were lacking many features which were needed to work with different platforms and newer operating systems. BCD can do a lot of awesome things that you couldn't do with boot.ini. I do agree with you on the point that BCD is overly complex and difficult to work with (it's a typical Microsoft thing to overkill a design that way)
and remove the ability to do a meaningful repair of a broken installation (it has to be initiated from a working installation-- no more boot from cd--> repair)
If Startup Repair cannot determine how to fix a boot problem it will pretty much perform a repair install as a last resort. I think a repair install leaves the system file versions in too unpredicatable a state.
Oh, and the control panel is a disaster now, with Network Connections and adapters taking some 6 clicks to get to (or actually typing ncpa.cpl into start menu).
I also dislike that they buried Network Connections...it should have at least been available from the right-click menu of the system tray icon. Microsoft wants to make Windows easier for regular people to use and a lot of things that people would use from previous Windows systems are considered too advanced and were buried away in the task pane of various control panels.
Just my 2 cents...