Then I noticed there were no real 3D/Aero type of buttons or controls. Most everything is a flat 2D rendering.
As evidence, I submit to you 3 Outlook screenshots I "borrowed" from various Internet sources (these are not from me). The data/email is not important, it's that they show the point I'm trying to make: Microsoft has taken the visual life out of Outlook and all of Office for that matter.
Here's Outlook 2007:
And finally Outlook 2013:
Here they are side-by-side:
I believe they did this for enhanced tablet usage: fewer colors/widgets = faster rendering and lower battery consumption. Unfortunately for Microsoft, most people will want the best of both worlds = speed, longer battery life and a better visual user experience. Even on a tablet. Do I need a "touch"-optimized Word for my tablet? Sorry, but if I need to enter more than a sentence or two of text, I'm using a keyboard, even on a tablet. The one exception is note-taking, in which case I'm using a stylus (the subject of a future article).
My prediction is that consumers and business will hold off on upgrading to 2013 and wait to see what Microsoft will come out with next. Maybe it will be a nice gray-scale text-based UI - but hey, it will be fast!