You could not have put this any better.
Where did the MS Ribbon Control come from? Same thing - someone decided that a simple row of buttons and a menu system is not sufficient anymore. Now the sheep follow - it doesn't "look modern" if it still has small tool buttons and no ribbon." But it really does not buy anything substantial, except a learning curve.
I agree, not all change is bad. Sometimes a small aesthetic change is good, such as flat button bars versus raised. You have not changed functionality or the way things work.
Sadly, you are very right - we're on a roller coaster. Just wait until Windows 8 gets here - it looks like it was based on MS Zune software.