I am not a designer, but I see an UI element communicate by its color, shape, position, contrast, focus and of course text. The new UI in 2013 definitely eliminated some of those attributes for some elements.
So far, the only big difference I see is the integration of SkyDrive so that documents can be readily saved in to the cloud and retrieved any where. At another level, going towards subscriptions could be a game changer for Microsoft.
But when it comes to the UI, I find it boring and am little disappointed.