Raph - it has been said that all great men have stood on the shoulders of giants. And for this, I sincerely thank you.
As for your MSWord batch-formatting system, well, I have some experience there between my work on wvWare and AbiWord. In order to do something like DOC->PDF conversion you'd necessarily need a layout engine and some sort of graphics class, like the PDF solution you describe. Re-inventing yet another layout/formatting engine, is, in my opinion, not really worthwhile outside of academia. Things like AbiWord and LaTeX have layout engines and graphics classes already. Using these sorts of tools, you can already do DOC->PS/PDF without of the "klunkiness" that a GUI might impose.
AbiWord --print=file.ps file.doc
wvLaTeX file.tex file.doc
You can then use 3rd-party tools to convert to PDF if you'd really like.
Basically, in my opinion, time would be best spent on improving wvWare or wv2 and the AbiWord layout engine. I believe that getting 100% correct layout is not only possible, but likely.