That's a fair enough criticism. I assume it has something to do with the original 'handy all-in-one-programming environment for the kiddies' concept; but even in the newer revisions, it's horribly outgunned for that purpose, so at least spawning an SSH server during install, like the various Debian flavors for headless devices do, would be nice.
That said, while nothing in the official documentation seems to suggest that this might be handy; you can save yourself a lot of (physical) trouble by ignoring the Pi to begin with, and either mounting the SD card image to a loop device, or writing to the SD card and then mounting the card. Good old text config files don't care that an x86 is modifying them but ARM binaries are going to be reading them.
If you do need full interactive configuration for something, I'm told that QEMU has Pi support now; but I haven't tried it.
As a more general convenience; I'm very fond of the cheapo HDMI extender. The newer version speaks a non-broken streaming protocol, which makes setup really easy; I have the v.2 which speaks a somewhat dysfunctional dialect; but also has support.
Image quality isn't what you'd call genius; but these things are markedly cheaper than 'proper' capture cards(and don't involve exciting fights with driver support); and they are certainly good enough to make text easily legible/otherwise allow GUI fiddling, with the 'monitor' living in a video player window on whatever computer you don't have to drag a monitor out of the junk box for. Unlike an (also wildly more expensive) IP KVM, this thing doesn't even pretend to handle peripherals, but something like the Logitech K400 isn't too bulky or annoying to set up. Hacked Motorola Lapdocks are also handy for speaking HDMI-and-peripherals in a small, portable, package.
None of this excuses a failure to just spawn an sshd for me, please? on the part of the Pi, however.