It's true that XP did have a goofy look out of the box. But the Fisher Price dressing was entirely optional, and fully configurable. In 'Classic' mode, XP looked just like W2K, and a lot like Win9x. More importantly, in any view XP worked much the same as Win9x - all the controls were instantly familiar. You could even open up an Explorer window to work like Program Manager - the transition was painless.
Improvements in XP were not immediately obvious. I initially switched from W2K because there was really no reason NOT to. But XP totally won me over within a month or two, as I found one nagging problem after another that had been fixed, one task after another that had been streamlined. XP was like a refined version of W2K - subtly better in many ways, worse in NONE.