Notwithstanding the Canonical Design Team's protestation that its new Unity Launcher is not a dock bar, it's difficult to resist the temptation of comparing it to alternatives like AWN and Docky.
Perhaps one reason that Canonical is so keen to distance itself from these more established options is that, given such comparisons, Unity does not fare particularly well. Take Avant Window Navigator for instance: in 10.04, AWN can be customised extensively, including the addition of bespoke launchers and the ability to change the application's behaviour and theme. Such system tweaks are mostly absent in Unity, making the Launcher little more than a placeholder for application shortcuts. However, the news is not all bad!
For a start, the Unity Launcher looks fantastic - it really does. The Faenza-like icons are of generous size without being invasive and the slick design means that size and rendering attributes are never compromised, even when a large number of icons are added to the launcher. The Design Team pulls-off this trick by tilting unused icons; a feature it calls, accordion.
Perhaps the biggest advantage that Unity can boast over its (non) rivals is the ease with which icons can be added: both drag-and-drop and right-click functionality have been incorporated into the design and this feature may well appeal to a broader audience than the current hardcore Ubuntu users (although I doubt this feature is enough on its own). Reorganising icons is also easy: simply drag-and-drop the desired icon to its new position on the bar. If the icon being relocated stays within the confines of the Launcher, the other icons make room for their companion by opening a gap as the icon is moved either up or down.
All-in-all, Unity looks great without being terribly exciting: let's hope that, as the concept matures, the developers build in more flexibility.