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Log onto Windows Server 2012, and it's straight into the Windows 8-style start screen. However, it's very much a program launcher here, and all applications (unless you've installed something from the Windows Store) run on the desktop.
Upgrading to a new version of Windows Server 2012 from Server 2008 or Servver 2008 R2 is easy enough. However, with the simplified range of SKUs, you'll need to be sure that you're on the right upgrade path. For example, Windows 2008 R2 Enterprise can only be upgraded to Windows Server 2012 Datacenter — and the default install is always Server Core.