Dear GNOME team,
I'd like to point out a fact to you: You are not, and should not compete with, Apple's Aqua GUI. There are several reasons for that, but let me tell my story first.
I installed Ubuntu 11.10 on a friend's laptop yesterday. The new Unity user
interface is somewhat unusable, of course. (Side rant: Unlike you
might think, quite many people out there have actual monitors, not
just tiny eeePC displays. Some even have computers that are more than
a few months old and lack the required processing power for stupid
eye-candy.) – First thing to do: Install
select "GNOME classic" at the login screen. Second thing: Disable
Enter $DEVELOPER, saying: "Oh, fuck this shit. Everybody wants these drum sounds at startup. So we'll make it hard to disable it." Guess how you can do it: Edit a somewhat buried file with root privileges. Try explaining that to your parents over the phone.
At one point I realize: There is no "Settings" menu any more. There just isn't. There are vague comments in some blogs this thing is missing, but I can't find where they put it. That's what qualifies as a regression.
The "System Settings" have moved, too, and looks like its OS X counterpart. Now if there's one thing Apple is really good at, it's making people feel comfortable (or even elitist!) thinking inside the box – by ways of designing a bearable user interface that hides complicated stuff. Mostly, though, this means you can only do what some (possibly narrow-minded) developer intended.
However, You, the GNOME team, are not good at it. Part of it is the simple fact that there just happen to exist tons of configuration options. If you hide them – and by hiding I mean: making it unaccessable without using the shell and/or editing special files – you are crippling the user.
So, please, stop "making things better". Or, if you do, on your way please don't destroy the perfectly running classig GUI in order to "improve" it. You are not Apple. You will never be Apple. The Aqua design sucks, too, but they never had a lot of configuration options in the first place. The Gnome Shell had.
P.S.: I don't use Desktop Environments myself, so I might have got some terminology wrong. But the fact alone I cannot find ways to configure stuff in two hour's time should tell tales.
P.P.S.: Bad decision: The scrollbars. Try teaching a person over age 60 (or below five) to use the 5px-wide scrool bar to make pop up an additional small scrollbar outside the window that actually enables scrolling the window contents. Again: not all people have a scroll wheel in their mouse. At least provide an easy settings dialog to disable this behaviour.