I am new to bitcoin, full time market trader, was excited when I recently learnt about bitcoin (and thought of the potential), however experimenting with it the last few weeks seems many many problems which severely restrict it ever taken off to its potential;
a) huge barriers to newbies entering (nearly gave up myself several times), from software issues through to finding a way to actually acquire bitcoins.
b) many of the ideas that initially make bitcoin attractive, are not true...eg fees? Whats with that? I'm getting them every frigin transfer even to myself (and oddly rather random)?
and no central authority....real hmmm sure? on several fronts its becoming as if there is..ie exchange mtgox? ad the core group of developers (99.9% of users just tag along).
so kinda lost if it heads this way what purpose it has at all?
I empathize with you completely. I got in back in June 2011 and I spent 6-10 hours trying to figure out how to get my first Bitcoins and start mining them.
The nice thing is that once you have them, the rest is essentially a piece of cake. The main reason that Bitcoins are so hard to acquire is because the payment methods that people typically would like to use to get them (e.g. paypal) have been exploited over and over to scam the seller. Nobody wants to sell Bitcoins for PayPal because the buyers could always claim they didn't receive their BTC and perform a reversal of the payment. This actually highlights some of the problems with traditional payment methods -- unfortunately, it makes it appear as though Bitcoin is causing all the hassle.
Regarding centralization, it does appear that way, but the type of centralization that Mt. Gox performs is (unfortunately) required at the moment. Can you think of some other way to transition from fiat currency to Bitcoins without there being a middle-man? How would you determine the purchasing power of each Bitcoin? While it's unfortunate that they hold such a large market share, they still don't have control over the Bitcoin protocol itself. If you keep your Bitcoins nice and safe in your wallet, Mt. Gox can't do a damn thing to touch them. By the way, I've never traded on Mt. Gox in the 11 months I've been doing this and I've done extremely well.
Realistically, though, tangible cash is going to be phased out sooner or later and it will be replaced by a digital version. There have been many other attempts (Beenz, Flooz, Linden Dollars, WOW money, Ithica HOURS, the OCCCU, etc.), and while some of these have seen some success (i.e. Linden Dollars and WOW money), none of them really represent a form of digital cash, and all of them have been centralized in some way or another.
It's possible that something superior to Bitcoin will come around, but if it does, it will likely only expand upon its characteristics and not replace them. I can't think of any other form of payment where I can be talking with someone at 2:00 AM and receive money from them at 2:01 AM. I'm in control of my Bitcoins, and I'm entirely responsible for them. Nobody can take them away from me. I like that.
And really...the fees are so tiny (usually < $.01) that it's essentially insignificant at the moment.