YaST (abf referred to as bloatware) is I believe the only comprehensive graphical and ncurses based system administration tool out there. It is one of SUSE's greatest strengths.. it is EXTREMELY lightweight (to the contrary of the former's post).
Other SUSE strengths come from their engineers which seem to have a better understanding of Unix. Where possible command and utilities inside of openSUSE are more compatible with what you would expect in a commercial Unix OS. Which makes life easier, especially if porting shell scripts.
SUSE also has long been the distribution interested in Microsoft integration.... and it does a reasonable job. SMB integration in particular is quite difficult because of the plethora of avenues available. SUSE does a pretty good job with its assumptions, most people get their machines connected to their Windows Domains quickly. You'll need a good book and some www help with most other distributions in that arena (and a lot of time and patience).
While it is very true that XGL was initially developed by a Novell engineer, things like AIGLX are options as well since that's part of Xorg... so you DO have a choice. Novell's Xgl implementation is pretty good... and like AIGLX, it still needs some maturing. I'd give the upper hand to Novell currently. Most people who criticize this aspect don't do 3d or gaming with their Linux distro. I like for EVERYTHING to work... and I mean everything.
With that said, like all US focused distributions, SUSE ships crippled software pieces and omits other pieces because of things like the DMCA and questionable technologies like MP3. However, openSUSE has several optional repositories (outside of Novell) that you can easily add to your configuration that will allow you to install everything needed to rip, play and encode all of the popular media formats. But if the FBI comes knocking some day....
I seriously believe that SUSE and openSUSE are the best out there. Bug free? No. And I'm probably SUSE's biggest critic (I'll try to be objective).
1. SUSE's monitor detection. It's weird because SUSE ships with hwinfo. The BEST hardware detection program out there (most distros don't use hwinfo.. makes one wonder). With that said, SUSE can't seem to get some things right regardless... and video and monitor configuration are weaker than they could be. Xorg 7.3 will help address a lot of this with true monitor detection and configuration.... but alas, SUSE won't get any credit for that... a lot of that credit goes the Xorg and possibly some of the Intel boys.
2. Enterprise hardware support. Let me say that ONLY SUSE does well with enterprise hardware (e.g. fibre SAN, HW RAID, multipathing, firewalling, clustering, volume mgmt, security), but it is still lacking. In order for Linux to compete with the big boys a LOT more work needs to be done in these areas. SUSE comes the closest, but it's not nearly close enough.
3. The codec conumdrum. Novell needs to figure out how to get the audio and video codec into SUSE in a legal fashion.... while still giving a way to replace those elements with the more liberal (illegal) ones. Novell has the deep pockets to make this happen. Rumor has it that they've been working on this for quite some time... but where is it?
4. Updating. YaST Online Update (<openSUSE 10.1) was solid. However when Novell acquired SUSE, they wanted to use Ximian's technologies for managing platforms. One thing the Ximian toolset provides is the ability to do patch pushes... something that some enterprise customers need. Red Hat's tool tracks your machinery online on their site with regards to its status of patch levels, etc.... Novell wanted SUSE to have the same thing, however instead of extending YOU to handle this, the decision was made to let the Ximian gang take this over. It's gotten better, but much more work needs to be done (Novell is basically trying to sell a product here).
5. Other Ximianifications. Let's face it, when you put Ximian in charge of the SUSE desktop, and the Ximian guy wrote Gnome, KDE doesn't have a chance. One of the biggest differentiations between SUSE and other distros was they were a big KDE user. With that said, Gnome is now usable in SUSE (where in the past it wasn't). KDE has improved a bit too... but it's definitely second fiddle to Gnome now... and Gnome is what power other distros like Red Hat and Ubuntu (yawn... KDE is much more of an integrated Windows-ish experience... Gnome still harkens back to the olden Unix days). We'll have to see if Gnome catches up to KDE (doubtful).... Miguel just needs to suck up his pride and be willing to look at something other than his own "baby".
5. Microsoft dealing. Well... enough said. Can you really play with Microsoft and not get burned?? We'll see.
I'm not sure what the future holds for SUSE. There were certainly some very bright moments. But recent oop's like SUSE 10.1 (so bad that openSUSE issued a refresh) show that a company can go backwards.... is SUSE 10.2 up to the task? It's pretty good. From what I can see, they seem satisfied with the updating mechanism now (but it's still got LOTS of issues). NetworkManager (a horrible Gnome thing) is still pretty broken (give you all of the things you HATE about Microsoft's network management). Fortunately, SUSE allows you to choose the more sane (though perhaps not as friendly... friendly meaning "I like the stupid insecure way that Windows works") ifcfg way of doing things... in fact on their enterprise distributions it defaults to doing it that way still.
Things SUSE does better:
1. ACLs... first distribution to support ACLs on all filesystems.
2. Windows integration (and a lot of this because of #1). Samba to the domain works really well with SUSE. Obviously within the limits imposed by pre-draft POSIX ACLs mapped to NTFS ACLs.
3. NIS and automounts. While many say don't use NIS, NIS is still the dominant centralized repository of user information in commercial Unix. With that said, Novell is recognized as a leader in commercial LDAP solns as well.. but for free.. it's openLDAP... but because of #2, you have to give an edge to SUSE even with regards to LDAP.
4. Administration. I'm sorry, but forcing a datacenter to install X on a box just so that administration can be done is ludicrous. SUSE allows you to use a ncurses administration tool that can be done across out of band connections like serial terminals and modems and such. I cannot over emphasize the datacenter value this adds. And serial rules for out of band.
5. Flexibility. Especially true of openSUSE, it comes with a lot of packages. However, Debian is still king in that arena... but perhaps losing a bit with regards to maintained packages. I've used SUSE to run kiosks, mail server, web servers, SMB servers, NFS servers... you name it. Sometimes all on the same platform.
6. Mainframe. Ask anyone. SUSE is the only real choice there right now. In fact when IBM was fishing for Linux distro support (IBM having contributed the lionshare of kernel work), Red Hat came to the door armed with contracts and "deals". SUSE dropped a PRODUCT onto their doorstep. That's pretty classy. Even today, Red Hat is sort of a pain to install onto a mainframe. SUSE just works better there.
I work primarily with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SLES and openSUSE. All of my moonlight contracts are done on a SUSE infrastructure (both openSUSE and SLES). I can handle Red Hat... but it's pretty much a manual config... like the old days.
What if something happens to SUSE? I'll be honest. I like the support community built around Ubuntu. Of course, I may prefer Kubuntu!
Finally, while I understand where abf is coming from by trying to classify systems based on experience levels... realize that the easiest to use system are often times going to be the ones with more technical superiority. That's just a fact. Telling a user how to build something primitive from scratch is NOT a sign of good technical know-how (it's more of a cop out). I know this isn't what abf was attempting to point out, but I know a lot of people that praise a distro based on the fact that it took them weeks to finally get it all configured. Seems rather odd....