Maybe the folder-to-library/file-to-library implementation is somewhat invasive, but saying that the inventor should be burnt at a stake seems like a bit excessive, don't you think?
The Windows Media platform is not that bad, in fact it's great, and it's not like I'm acting biased, by comparison take a look at the GStreamer framework for Linux, it's a great platform, but... still lacking DVD support inside it, which (unfortunately) sucks.
VLC? Ok, it's not a bad player, but relies on FFMPEG, which sucks due to their developers changing the libraries and ruleset as often as they desire, not to mention their objective is to 'support any possible format' but not striving for precision, just for wide coverage, which is good, but lacks some real performance.
Want a wide codec coverage under WMP?
4. Real Alternative
5. Quicktime Alternative
6. CCCP Codec Pack
1. Shark007 Windows 7 Codec Pack
You'll get the same ammount of codec coverage (including Flash, MKV, plus some more obscure formats, like Indeo if I remember correctly) with any of the two paths and still get a nice media player.
Just my 2 cents