I wasn't keen on the ribbon at first; I'm what I guess would be called a power user, so my life revolves around ALT-menukey shortcuts, and the ribbon hides things in STUPID places. More specifically, it is focused on providing functionality to regular users (which is fine if you're one of them) and thus makes it more difficult for people who actually know how to use Word properly. That sounds arrogant I suspect, but I promise that any power users will recognize what I'm saying - perhaps including yourself, Joe!
That said, the ability to code a customized ribbon has allowed me to write specialized tools to support templates and put all the best things in one place. It's simple stuff, all in VB.Net, and nothing I could do anywhere near as nicely in Word 2003.