The team have been getting a lot of feedback about how to improve their user experience and it looks like they paid attention to a lot of the critics. The post on the team blog entitled UI refresh outlines some of the changes they've made including 

 -          Wehave simplified our first run experience to provide a fast andstraight-forward experience for users that are interested in asearch-focused page, as well as the option for users to personalizetheir homepage or learn more about Windows Live services.  

-          Wehave heard that users want a personalized homepage that is easier toset up, so we are also introducing a new customization step to helpusers personalize their homepage. Users can now choose from 5templates to quickly get started with a few interesting pages rightaway (including a world cup template!)

-          You’ll also note some look and feel improvements with a new logo, improved themes, header and page treatments that make the page more visually appealing.

I know there has been a lot of folks at work have nagged the team about making the start page a simple search box while others want to have a more pre-programmed feel like It looks like the team has found a good compromise. Here are some screenshots of the new start page and one of the templates that can be chosen as a start page. The world cup template below is particularly amusing to me because I've seen a bunch of internal criticism the team has been getting for not doing something to support the world cup.

First run experience

World Cup template

There are almost 50 comments on to the blog post announcing the changes as I write this and most of them are positive. Kudos to Sanaz and company.