Autodesk just announced upcoming release of Maya 2011 with features like completely new PyQt interface, better skinning tools including Dual Quaternion deformer. It all looks really cool!
Dual Quaternion will reduce number of influences needed for basic skinning. There`s also a weight map to combine linear and dualQuad interpolation which can be handy if we need to loose volume a bit. Nice thing about new toolset is bringing some favourite features from custom tools (Michael Comet Tools, David Walden Skinning Tools etc.) into standard Maya installation, like Select Affected Points or Copy/Paste weights. Paint Smooth Weights as they show now maybe works properly.
detail list of features (I don`t think it`s final) is here: