I understand your points, but most desktop environments have offered that already. Take KDE as an example.
There is a taskbar doing that for KDE, just pull the widget to the panel. Panel can be vertical too (and always could), this is how I have it because of 1080p resolution.
Originally Posted by coder543
Alt-F2 (KRunner) does that in KDE by default. Alt-F2 is the shortcut from the 90s which stuck around, but you can easily reassign it.
That's just to address the one concern you gave. I'll list a few others. On Unity in particular, you've got global search at your disposal, so one keypress or click and you can immediately find and launch anything by name with just the enter key.
KWin does that. I think it's not bound to a corner by default, but Ctrl-F10 does it. Ctrl-F8 does the same, but additionally shows all desktops in a grid. You can also start typing the app name, and it will automatically filter the window previews for you.
That's infinitely better than digging through Gnome 2's app menu, let alone browsing for a particular file. Gnome Shell offers a similar feature. In Gnome Shell (and Unity as I have it configured) there is a hot corner (and keyboard shortcut) that immediately exposes all windows in a fashion where you can continue on and click the one you want immediately.
KDE has that too.
As far as I'm concerned the only real regression is the loss of the Compiz Cube
KDE has that too.
but I'll take Unity and Gnome Shell's extremely up to date visual styles over that any day.
What bothers me about Unity is that it's hard to figure out how to do things. The first thing I do when running a recent Ubuntu is open a few terminals, so I don't have to touch Unity :) It's not the new functionality that bothers people about Unity and Gnome Shell (KDE has had all that functionality for years), but the fact that features have gone missing in an effort to reeducate you about how you shall use your computer and punish you for disobedience. That's annoying.
But then again, different strokes for different folks. As long as KDE continues to offer me a full-featured desktop, I don't mind it if other desktops try different things. For the record, my KDE desktop resembles NeXT. One panel on the left with a Wharf-style taskbar and some common shortcuts, 4 desktops, Alt-tab for switching and Krunner+command name for starting stuff. No icons on desktops, very few effects which I use sparingly. Pretty bare-bones, and takes about 5 minutes to set up. I can't set up Unity to do that, so it's no good for me.