any contacts you make with the supplied contact app have to be synced to a Google account and thus be condemned to a lifetime of slave labor in Larry Page's data gulag. This is supposedly a bug in 4.0 but I'm fairly sure that Mountain View is quite alright with the status quo and it won't change anytime soon.
I don't think this is true. You can have phone only contacts with no sync (I have not tested for sure because I did give up my list of contacts to Larry Page's gulag). I believe the bit about contacts from SIM or phone (like the good old days) is still there, but ever since I switched to a smartphone I chose to use Google as my contact list backup+sync. As I wipe my device and/or move to a new one, I login with my account within a few minutes I get all my contacts back.
As for the "cloud storage", I believe Android can still act as an Active Sync client
and talk to Microsoft's live/hotmail/outlook.com system if you want that to store your list of contacts. And I think there are apps out there that can sync contacts with iCloud if you come from iPhone and use the Apple ecosystem for your contacts. I actually use a separate gmail account just to store my contacts. My actual gmail account contains too many contacts I don't really care for.
How do you think software gets developed and tested that has not yet been approved for the App Store? I don't know Microsofts App Store model, but I'm quite certain you can write .NET app s for your own device without hindrance.
I don't know Apple's App Store model, but for Microsoft I believe you can write and test your apps in the emulator on the PC, but to load the app into an actual device you need the developer's license (and key) in order to sideload your non-published app to the phone. So there is a slight monetary barrier of entry to the WP app dev ecosystem AFAIK.
The Model M is not for the faint of heart. You either like them or hate them.
Gerbils unite! Fold for UnitedGerbilNation, team 2630.