I loaded up Vista RC1 on my test machine. I like it. Much faster than the previous beta. But I have noticed a real disturbing change to the UI: inconsistent standards.
Office 2007, Vista’s Windows Explorer, Windows Media Player 11 and Internet Explorer 7 all use different models of presenting their interface to the user. Some use button bars. Some lose the menu bar entirely. I found myself wondering how on earth the same company could drive so many different models of interfaces.
Microsoft outlines its design goals for Office 2007 here.
In previous releases of Microsoft Office applications, people used a system of menus, toolbars, task panes, and dialog boxes to get their work done. This system worked well when the applications had a limited number of commands. Now that the programs do so much more, the menus and toolbars system does not work as well. Too many program features are too hard for many users to find. For this reason, the overriding design goal for the new user interface is to make it easier for people to find and use the full range of features these applications provide. In addition, we wanted to preserve an uncluttered workspace that reduces distraction for users so they can spend more time and energy focused on their work. With these goals in mind, we developed a results-oriented approach that makes it much easier to produce great results using the 2007 Microsoft Office applications.
However, these goals are not consistently applied to other Microsoft apps. You can see how different these various models are here.