+1 for removing the keyboard split from the panel
in general i think this idea could be good for some people and i'd prefer the original concept, mentioned in the first post. if you can expand and collapse it, where's the problem? coloring the channel headers on the other hand would make the whole channel tab into a giant LSD trip like thing and would need a lot more work for changing the background colour AND the text color.
i'm totally against popups by the way.
regarding the channel manager: i don't use it, but i think it's useful. as are the VU meters (which i love) and the treeview (which i don't make use off, since it takes too much space although it might appear very functional if used correctly)