I'm much deeper into the rabbit hole of Blender now, and a particular analysis of the program has stuck in my mind.
It goes like this: Blender's biggest shortfall is its age. The program is still only about ten years old, while Max, Maya, Lightwave, XSI, etc. are often twenty, twenty five years old. As a result, those programs have had a lot longer to add on new features, remove problems, or adjust what's already there.
But there's the rub: all these "additions" are basically polishing something already in existence. The result? Due to the built in hierarchy of Maya or Max now, there's some problems they can't fix, because these flaws have become an integral part of pipelines everywhere. So to change a major part of Maya or Max, they have to rip out a ton of infrastructure.
Now try jumping into Blender, and you'll soon discover all sorts of things that they change from other programs, because they don't have to restart from the ground up. As a result, things like basic movements, the graph editor, character tools, weight painting and the like work the way they should.
Weight painting is a great example. In Max and Maya, the first thing you do when learning to weight paint is pull out all your hair. The reason is because you have to get comfortable with the mathematics it's based around: adding up to %100, no more no less. So it ends up pissing you off when you can't increase a bone weight, and it especially pisses you off when you reduce weight to 90%, and it shoots to some wonky bone in order to automatically add up to 100%.
But mathematically, how does that make sense? Anything divided by itself equals 100%, so Blender goes off a splendidly additive system. If you've only got a cumulative 90% of the weight distributed (aka 90%/90%, aka 1) it doesn't jump to new places. If you've got (GASP!) two different bones at 80% (aka an unimaginable 160%) it just figures out the math any third grader should be able to handle, and puts 50% weight in both areas.
It's clear that Blender's youth may limit its functionality so far, but at the same time Blender's youth means it tore down a lot of the broken, unfixable ideas from other programs. To date, I've used Blender tools for modeling, UV unwrapping, rigging, skin weighting and animating, and all of these have left me pleasantly impressed.