When you first load a fresh install of Windows 7 or Server 2008 (original or R2) the desktop is empty of icons except for the Recycle Bin. Personally, I really like it that way. The search mechanism is so easy to use I have little need for icons cluttering up my desktop background.
However, some people like the look of the familiar. In Windows 7, you can use the “Personalization” control panel applet to add back the icons for Computer, Network and Documents. Windows 2008 has no such option in the control panel for restoring those icons by default. Instead you must type “desktop icons” into the search window and select the hidden control panel feature to “Show or hide common icons on the desktop.”
You can right click “Computer” in the start menu and there is an option for that component to show on the desktop, but the same feature is not available for “Network.” The other option is to install the “Desktop Experience” onto the server, which will add several of the customizing features that one might be wishing for. I also noticed that I have access to the Personalization control panel applet on a server that has Terminal Services (aka Remote Desktop Services) installed.
I suspect there are some registry keys that can reveal some of these interface tweaks. Or maybe this is just a Trivial Pursuit question in the making.