Don't worry mate, I know how .htaccess works, but try doing that across multiple servers in multiple farms in multiple countries. The XML configuration of .config files means that I can work with a parser without having to do any find / replace type stuff.
It just writes the value I need to whatever server, OS, farm or regional location I require.
Easy as pie.
I'm not complaining about .htaccess, because the simplicity is a huge bonus. However, the manageability of the .config files is a huge bonus as well. It's 2 different ways of managing a server. Neither is right or wrong, but it's likely only one will suit your