A few thoughts on what Ubuntu needs. As I've previously mentioned, I'm a fan of 11.10, mainly because it takes very little work to get it to where it ought to be.
But you still have to perform that work. Now some of that is going to be inevitable. Encrypted DVD playback, for instance, will never be included out of the box for legal reasons. But some of the other things should really not have to be done. Ubuntu 11.10 is pretty damn good. but if it had the following changes it would really be great, right out of the box.
So here is my bitch list:
This is the first thing on my list, because Unity is simply an awful interface. It takes some of the ideas of Gnome 3 shell (which I really like) but in the end is really just an annoying hindrance. It should be replaced wth Gnome 3 shell, and that is the first thing I do with a new install.
Integrated Config Tools
This is on both Ubuntu and Gnome 3. Ubuntu has no integrated GUI tool to modify Grub, or the logon splash screen. The aren't even in the repos. I think this is a major oversight. Part of the appeal of Linux is the customization options. Ubuntu should be leveraging this, not trying to crank down the user's options.
Same for Gnome 3. No built in tools to rotate wallpapers - this is simply dumb. Gnom3 shell is one of the slickest interfaces out there today, but glaring oversights like this (and the lack of ANY screensaver) are just dumbfounding.
Chrome should be easily installable right out of the box. I know it isn't open source. I'm pretty sure that dropbox isn't either, but there it is in the partner repos (I think - don't quote me!) I know you can get Dropbox right there in the software center. Chromium is in there, but no Chrome. Installing it from google's site isn't hard. I know this. But does my Mom? This is one of those things that make your OS appealing to the masses. Chrome should be a no-brainer. Ditto for Adobe Acrobat Reader (even if you think it sucks)
Stop "Change For Change Sake, Like It Or Not"
A few iterations back the folks at Canonical decided to move the windows control buttons (minimize, maximize, and close) from the right to the left side of the window's title bar. Why make this change? Near as I can tell, because that is the way Macs have it. Is there any other reason? I can't think of it. Oh, and we decided we aren't going to include any (easily accessible) settings control to undo this. One of my best read posts on here are instructions on how to change it back to how it had been since the origin of Ubuntu. Now this isn't really a component of this release that I would like to see changed, but Canonical needs to break themselves of the habit of making wholesale changes, without any go backs. It is a philosophical change. Microsoft takes a lot of heat for many things (deservedly so) but they do this right. When XP came out, it was easy to make it look like the 2000 interface. When Vista, ditto for the XP look. Windows 7... you get the idea. Giving your users what they like and are familiar with is a good idea. At least give them the option.
Actually a pretty short list. I REALLY like 11.10 with Gnome 3 shell. A LOT. But nothing is perfect. These items would really take it to the next level.