A friend pointed out to me the similarity between Microsoft's icon set for the new Office 2010 beta and Adobe's icons for its Creative Suite. Looking at the two sets, it's clear that they are alike in some ways, but that Adobe has gone for the more graphically "pure" design while Microsoft has favored a busier image.
Microsoft's icons retain the rounded edge introduced in the 2007 version, but the introduction of the single, graphically recognizable letter is an obvious nod to Adobe. Ignoring the size discrepancies in my screen capture above, what seems to make Adobe's icons pop off the screen more than the cleanness of the image are the color choices: Adobe's orange and red are more vibrant than the muted shades for Microsoft Office. However, the darker bottom of Adobe's darker-colored icons doesn't seem to play well with the solid-black lettering. In contrast, Microsoft's decision to give the letters gradient shades makes the icons softer, but they appear to stand out more from a cluttered field.
With the larger taskbar in Windows 7, though, the icons may stand out enough anyway. How important do you think icon design and choice is to your software? Let us know in the comments.