In the example I just gave, there was no configuration necessary, it all fitted together and was configured through usable GUIs.
Not that I disagree, but if this is the only standard of "heading in the right direction", Apple would probably take the crown.
My main beef with Microsoft, though, isn't the GUI, but those proprietary, mysterious and under-documented configuration files. A plain-text file is much easier to customize, script, and search, and I'll take plain text logs over the Event Viewer any day.
In terms of the Ubuntu server issues, it all seemed to be down to Samba. In a world without Google, the whole Samba setup would be nigh on impossible for a novice user.
Samba indeed isn't easy to configure for a novice, but it owes a significant part of its complexity to Windows networking. If it doesn't have to serve in such heterogeneous environments, it won't be this difficult. Does WHS serve Linux clients?
In terms of stability, I can't remember having a BSOD since Windows 98. XP, Vista and now Windows 7 have been rock-solid.
BSOD is indeed rare (though not extinct) since XP on my desktop, but performance is another matter. Even with Vista (Win 7 is still in beta, so it's unfair to compare it here), I have to reboot at least every couple of weeks, otherwise it begins to slow down and act funny.
And, I agree with you that Ubuntu is coming-on leaps-and-bounds, but its software installation still has a long way to come. Synaptic works well, but there are still too many programs that need to be manually installed (I know that ./configure, make and make install isn't difficult, but a modest user would baulk at needing to do this).
I'm afraid I lost you here. Isn't it true that more Windows applications have to be installed manually? Many Linux applications not in the repo provide pre-built packages for major distros that are just as easy to install as Windows applications. I'm not that Linux savvy; I hesitate to compile my own software as well.
I see the competition among Windows, Linux and Mac OS a healthy thing, and I look forward to the day that I can choose on merits, without feeling trapped by any of them.