SureCutsALot and MakeTheCut have made legally binding confidential agreements with Provocraft to remove cricuts from the range of digital diecutters compatible with their software. This means that unless you have bought scal or mtc you will no longer be able to buy download versions for use with cricuts, at this moment there are still cd versions available but associates have been asked to withdraw them from sale.
Fairy Cuts is at the moment the only software available that will allow you to make your own designs and cut them on a cricut. It's not as easy as scal/mtc but is the only option for new users. How long this will last before PC take legal action no one knows. Provocraft are intending to make their own webbased software available at some point in the future but there are serious issues which need to be remedied before I would even consider looking at it let alone use.
Since the introduction of scal I've been a huge fan and have happily recommended peeps to go with scal & cricuts as an easy but excellent introduction to the world of diy digital diecutting. Without cricut support in the new versions of scal & mtc I can no longer recommend cricuts.
For me the next best thing would be to go with the Pazzles inspiration which has double the cutting power of the cricut. A blackcat cougar would be an excellent choice for those who want to take it even further as it has double the cutting power of the pazzles. Neither machine are low entry prices though starting at over £400 & £500
The new comer on the block is the ecraft craftwell machine being wholesaled in the UK by crafters companion. It does have an entry level pricing but until I've used it myself to know if the original bugs have been ironed out I can not say one way or the other if I think it's a good machine.