It sounds good, but if it were that simple... There's something hard about it. Nobody is just trying to piss people off.
If nothing else: there are very few developers doing quite a lot.
I don't think the kernel is directly comparable; one reason is 100x more developers, but another reason is that evolving UI is a different problem from evolving code. GNOME 2 to 3 evolved the _code_ quite gradually and smoothly with no big rewrite.
I'm trying to think of examples of UIs that gradually evolved between two pretty different states like GNOME 2 and 3, and having trouble. But maybe there are some interesting ones out there. I guess Apple is currently doing some sort of make-OS-X-more-like-iOS-in-each-release thing according to the media but I haven't tried it out myself.