I've been a Linux user for years ( on and off since 2000, 100% switch since Jan 2004 ) and I've used Gentoo for most of that time. I've run Gentoo on my desktop, laptop, servers; everything really. I'd spend days getting a system installed and usable, hours and hours making wireless networking slightly work on my laptop, and more time than I'd like to think updating systems. That all used to make sense.
Back in the day when really to keep on the bleeding edge of Linux software Gentoo was really the only option. If you wanted it in the package manager, that is. Obviously you could install things by hand with others -- but Gentoo had it all in portage. But now when even "user friendly" disro's like Ubuntu include things like Beryl -- what does Gentoo really have.
I installed Ubuntu on my laptop finally -- replacing Gentoo. When I booted it up for the first time I was able to use NetworkManager in the notifications tray to connect to an access point immediately. It "just worked". Amazing. I didn't have to do anything. Same thing with audio and video. It worked right out of the install. I really like that. I also like being able to update 60 packages on a system in all of about a minute.
With such ease of use and simplicity of maintenance where do distributions like Gentoo or Slackware stand? Hard to imagine many people continuing to use them or more, people starting with them. The days of hard to use Operating Systems is over -- Linux is finally catching up. Is it too late to stop many of the Linux users from switching to Apple's Mac? With the power of UNIX and the "it just works" mindset -- why not? I've got a friend's G4 Mac Desktop in my room which he lets me use. I've started to use it more than all my other systems, even though it is older than them all. Reason? It still performs well, "just works" better, and the user experience is nicer. I'm looking forward to the not too distant future where I can buy myself a brand new Mac.
It'll be interesting in the next few years to see how much more Apple's market share will grow. It'll be especially interesting to see where more of the converts are coming from -- Windows or other OSs.