...that pressing the super key (aka windows key) and typing is not an innovation exclusive to windows 7 don't you?
IIRC win8 retains that ability though I don't use that os. My regular desktop is GNOME 3 and it works just like that too.
The thing with Win8 and GNOME3 is that there is so much angst over what amounts to the introduction of a full screen launcher to replace a stale but familiar cascading drop down menu launcher. In both cases once you launch the same old apps all that crap is out of sight.
Of the two however GNOME 3 is clearly superior in my experience to WIN8. Microsoft went even far beyond GNOME in hiding functionality--at least GNOME retained their equivalent of a start button. Also windows is a confusing mess because it presents the launcher as the application environment...but just for metro apps. Then there is still the old desktop...but without a visible launcher (until 8.1 anyways).
At least in GNOME 3 there is still a clear division...it is clear when you are on the desktop running apps and when you are in the launcher/Switcher. It still hides a bit too much config but it is evolving faster than windows and plugins are quite useful.
In any case I spend most of my time in a handful of apps, text editor and terminal and just tab between them so the desktop environment makes little difference to me.
The one thing that actually surprised me was how much faster beginners and casual users caught onto GNOME than win8. The latter had them mystified, especially coming from XP. Despite being different GNOME was much more intuitive for the most part. Both, however, caused power users much frustration because of their instinctive desire to tweak their environment. Casual users have no such compulsion...their focus is the apps not the environment they are hosted in, and if apps are easy to find and launch that is all that matters.