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IMHO, Gnome's going to the right direction... but still lacks some basic funcionality... to name one, the filemanager... It's pretty easy to know how to use it, wich is a good thing, but doesn't mean it's that good... There's not evolutionary learning in the file browser, what you see is all it can do. The reason seems to be personal taste of developers (as the spatial browsing, that's very sane, but don't look like a good solution for unixes with hundreds of basic system files... it's ok for browsing your small music and video collection, some documents, but for anything beyond that, it's a pain...), constant changes in GTK+ widgets (the shine new ones get ported to the file manager pretty fast) and probably many other ones I can't remember right now and several ones I don't know...
By comparition, try list a folder with a hundred other folders in Windows Explorer, it won't update the screen every milisecond chaging the itens of place everytime it discovery a new folder in this hundred ones... thy use the "back" button; you'll return to the same point you was in the last folder, and not to the top of the list of folders again.
Let's talk about the location bar in Nautilus... it's pretty, it's sane and easy to undestand... but how can it make my work faster? I'm not talking about going back to the old path typing, I'm talking about how can we set up an evolutionary approch in the location bar? Do I really to double click it? Can't I just click a path level and start typing to the location I want?
There's no similar in Windows yet (just in Windows Vista, this behavios has been displayed a long ago and exists in Beta version, but I have just looked screenshots and not used the real thing to talk about...), but as an example, let me mention the Windows right-click drag'n drop. It's something that won't limit any new user to do anything. it's something that it's there, to be used as long you know it... and know what? It's a LOT intuitive after you tried it (like learning to ride a bicicle!) and a real timesaver... non obstrutive pop-ups... it's safe (if the user don't know exactly what the action will do, the right click drag'n drop show him/her the options before doing anything... or nothing at all!).
I'm pretty sure that similar behaviors can be built to Gnome... making it easy AND powerfull. Instead of choosing how the user should do something, leting them choose between some sane behaviors... logical ones like the example.
I'm not going a lot more in deep details as I still have lots of things to do today, but I think that's enough to get the idead of what I'm talking about (even with this terrible engRish...)...
it's safe (if the user don't know exactly what the action will do, the right click drag'n drop show him/her the options before doing anything... or nothing at all!).
Try middle click drag'n drop in Gnome, you might like it.