Wine is a great app and a great project and I can see why it's popular and why a lot of people would want to use it. Now, having said that, the purpose of Linux Mint is to make the best desktop operating system ever (sorry for the superlatives, and of course it's all relative), not to make it easy for people to switch from Windows to Linux.
Don't get me wrong, if people like Linux Mint and find it easy, if people thanks to that ease of use leave Windows and adopt Linux, then it's great news and I'm obviously happy to contribute to that. But my main focus is not for people to migrate and to ease that migration. You're saying the panel layout and the menu look more similar to Windows than they do in other Gnome desktops. Great, but the reason it does isn't because we want Windows users to feel at home in Linux Mint, it's simply because we think it's better that way (easier access to common tools through the menu, more screen space with a single bar). We don't want to set ourselves apart from Windows like some distros do (by making obvious efforts into looking somewhat as different as possible to any other desktop), but we're not trying to resemble Windows either.
Linux Mint is a desktop designed primarily to please Linux Mint users. If we can help people migrating from Windows then we're happy to do so (network autobrowsing is an example of that for instance), but if we need to compromise the comfort of Mint users by adding or changing things which only appeal to people making the transition we're not working at making a good desktop anymore, we're working at pleasing users which are primarily using something else... why would we go against what we think is an ideal configuration for Mint users to attract another user-base?
A very strong concept in the Main edition is to provide the tools which are necessary for users to enjoy their desktop for everyday tasks. To achieve this we provide one application per task and we are selective as to which tasks are important to all. You can see for instance that we're not including the gnome-games package for the very simple reason that this is something we don't feel is as important as a web browser, a mail reader or any other central part of a desktop operating system. Of course it should be easy to add to the system but it shouldn't be there among other things by default. The ability to run Windows applications on Linux Mint is fantastic and I can see where you're coming from, but so is the ability to remotely login to an X server, to run gameboy games or to launch virtual machines. There's so much you can do with a Linux system, but it's up to you to add these features as we don't feel they're relevant in defining what an ideal desktop should do. Emulating another operating system simply isn't in the scope of what the default install should do.
Now, what we can do is to setup Wine the way people want and to package it so that when you actually install it, it runs out of the box without any configuration. We can add that to our repositories and even to the software portal. We could also look into a way to make a compatibility layer for windows apps (by using Wine in a transparent mode) so you can run them directly without even knowing that Wine is installed by default in Linux Mint. But when it comes to actually have an item in the menus saying "Windows Emulator", no.. definitely no. My first reaction as a user would be "Why is that here? Why would I want that?". Bundling things people don't need/want is IMHO very bad. It's like having a mugshot applet in your panel when you don't even use mugshot or know what it's about, it's like having Java Web Start installed by default (I know.. we need to do something about that
). Your desktop is your home, it should feel at home. As a Mint user we hope you share our vision and feel at home. You can set up Mint as an alternative desktop to suit the way you're using Windows and are relying on it but it's not designed for this primarily and we'll only ease that process when it doesn't make us reach compromises.
To conclude with this topic I'd like to make a comparison with the OpenOffice.org project. Their word processor application supports the DOC format, when they started out, they were in the same position as Linux desktops are in comparison to Windows (that is, a 2% vs 90% market share situation). Most of their users migrated directly from Microsoft Office and had their entire collection of documents encrypted into DOC. Did OpenOffice.org eased the migration? Yes they did, they supported DOC. Did they compromise as to what their vision of an Office might be? Not at all, since day one they looked into making what they though the best format should be and they stuck to that. If you run OpenOffice.org Writer nowadays you can see how it both supports DOC and ODT, the thing is: It would make sense for 90% of users (still running Windows and a lot of them only recently migrating to OO) to have OpenOffice.org default to the DOC format. It makes sense for OpenOffice.org core users and devs though to follow what they thing is right, irrelevant to the current market and user-base situation and to choose ODT as default.
Sometimes we even go against what our own users think and make a bold decision and stick to it. You probably remember the controversy when we boldly said we preferred stability over security and stubbornly decided to remove the update manager in Celena. Even now in Daryna with mintUpdate which is technically a better solution, a lot of non-Mint users (and users we lost by making that decision, also) strongly disagree with the idea of filtering updates. The concept of missing any security update, to them, is total nonsense. But it's what we think is right, no matter what most people think, so that's what we do.
90% of desktop users run Windows. Soon or later Linux will become popular and the user base for most distributions (especially ones that are easy to use) will be made of far more many newcomers than actual core Linux users. It will make more and more sense over time to include technologies like Wine and please Windows users... but the thing is, it won't make sense to us to change our vision for some pragmatic convenience.
I hope we never do. I can see how similar ideas got into distros like Linspire and recently Linux XP and Pioneer Linux. I'm not judging them and I think it's great that they exist, that people have a choice into an easy transition and for people who simply want this kind of alternative. But it's definitely not my vision and I don't want to ever go in that direction.
I take your point and I'll look into both packaging a preconfigured Wine for ease of use and an eventual invisible wine layer for Windows compatibility by default in Mint (maybe a similar idea to what IBM OS/2 used to do) but as for Wine coming into the default software selection and making its entry into the menu, it is not going to happen.