I've been conducting a little experiment. Using Titanium Backup, I have painstakingly frozen nearly every preloaded app (aka "crapware") or system app on my rooted Droid Bionic (5.9.901), so long as it doesn't result in forced closes or total mayhem. I've arrived at pretty much the most non-bloaty system possible short of actually deleting the apps or loading a completely non-stock ROM. I've actually tried to hunt down what some of these things actually do to decide whether to ice them or not. So I'm stock with lots of frozen bloat.
And yet with nearly every benchmark I can find on the Market, the differences in performance are practically meaningless. Nor do I notice any especially faster response in subjective terms. So the question for the Android jedi is: what's the deal here? Is Android so clever that it always optimizes regardless of what apps are around? Is most of the bloat not really loaded and running until you actually activate an app, so removing it makes little difference? I can still see a reason to clean out the unwanted apps - frees up storage space and rids the phone of annoying trialware and functions better served by other apps (VZ Navigator, I'm looking at you). But is there any real benefit to performance?