Robert posits the question of formatting. Specifically, if 4th Edition would have been better received had it been rendered in 3rd Edition's format. He even goes so far as to do a quick mock-up of what a cleric might have looked like, including a couple of prayers, a spell, and an exploit in the vein of 3rd Edition's spell blocks.
First, ugh. The old format is dreadful. There's information all over the page, broken up by a class table. You have paragraph blocks of text with unnecessarily long wording. I remember back when I used to write up prestige classes that I would just copy and paste all of that over and over again, because typing it out was so tedious. Robert didn't get it completely right however, as all the power information would be in the back of the book (where it was most inconvenient).
Second, I seriously doubt 4E would have been any better received, even had Wizards stuck to the old format. People were hating on it a full-half year before it was released, picking apart each preview despite the information being provided in a vacuum. The tired, re-hashed claims that I hear again and again depict the game as a MMO, or a card-game, for idiots, for kids with various disorders, and so on and so forth. I've yet to hear anyone complain about the format change, though that would be a welcome change of pace.
Personally, I really liked the initial 4E format, as things were placed in a logical order so that I could easily go from one step to the next, without having to flip back and forth from the front and back of the book to pick my options. This is one of the reasons that I dislike the format from the two player-Essentials books: when checking up on my specialization school, warpriest domain, hexblade pact, etc, I have to flip back and forth. Not nearly as far, mind you, but enough for it to be a bit of a hassle.
That's really all I want to be able to do in a game: go from start to finish without having to jump all over the book. 4E does an excellent job of this (though I still prefer using Character Builder).