The Backflip was not a great execution to begin with, as you clearing pointed out in your review.
Any hope this phone had of making any dent or convincing anyone in the marketing that AT&T was ready for Android was destroyed with the way they treated this device. Removing Google Search is an insult and a tragedy of the highest degree. On top of that not allowing users to install "unknown" applications on this "open" phone is ludicrous.
AT&T has really destroyed my faith in them on every level. It is truly sad that the largest Cellular company in the US is so stupid when it comes to Cell Phones
While I think it sucks that google search and other services have been removed I think that most people forget the simple fact that the MAJORITY of the public could give two poops about adding apps that they find on some random developer's blog. I'm sure AT&T's goal was to keep Backflips from being returned for viral issues, etc and create a uniform experience for it's customers.
However, I think that could've been resolved with a simple option/setting that would allow users to accept the fact that installing apps from beyond the Android Market opens the device up to viruses, etc...
Every Android device that I have owned, (G1, Cliq, and now the Nexus One) all have the option of choosing to install "Unknown Sources." The default is with it not allowing the install. If you choose to enable it a big warning appears stating you are responsible for any problems you may have.
The fact that AT&T continually makes decisions to just absolutely cripple their devices baffles me.