nI also would go with maya, It's the most forgiving of them all if you know nothing about modelling, and is a lot easier to use in my opinion. A lot of the most useful options are visualised with little pictures, which are pretty self-explanitory with what the option does, so you don't need to know what 'extruding' is, or 'bridging' or 'subdividing' or what any of the basic commands are.
It's actually quite quick to get stuck in with it, just place a box and click on polygon mode. Then start dragging around the faces/vertices and using commands, figuring out how it works.
You might get a bit stuck with UV mapping (applying textures), but again - I found it a LOT easier than blenders UV mapping. A lot of people think that Blender's is better, but I couldn't use it at all. There are a few help threads about this, so have a look at those, and if your still stuck send me a pm and I'll try to point you in the right direction.
Oh, quick note:
Maya 2012 does not have openCollada support, make sure you get 2011 instead!!
Edit: I never mentioned 3ds, so here's what I think about it, I used it for a short while, but I was getting some visual artefacts because of my not-so-great Graphics card:
What I realised was that all the tools are in one huge dropdown list, which is great if you know what your looking for - you can just search, and your there! But not so good if you don't.
If you wanted to say - link two edges of a shape together to make a square, you'd have to know the name of the function, otherwise you'll be there for a while checking through every tool in the list until you find it. It's still an amazing program, and is worth considering, it's just I think it would be easier to start with Maya, and maybe move on to other stuff when you get better!