Compared with the old Download Center, this new one is much more attractive. Yet I don't see that it provides significantly more functionality or information than the old page. There are a few "widgets" on the page powered by Silverlight that provide animated pop-up windows and menus, but they are relatively slow and not completely intuitive.
As with MSDN, my big concern was the performance. This new download center makes 91 requests totaling 525 Kbytes, and the page takes about 10 seconds to load. The old page makes only 27 requests totaling 115 Kbytes, and takes just 3 seconds to load. So, at the moment the new download center is more than three times the size, makes three times the requests, and takes three times longer to load than the old one. And, you must install the Silverlight plugin before you can use the new page.
Now, we're talking about a beta here; things could possibly change for the better before the new Download Center is officially launched. Yet the MSDN site shows that Microsoft isn't necessarily sensitive to performance issues, and it may only fix the outright bugs. Silverlight's role in the redesign is most likely not negotiable, either. However, Microsoft may not get a lot of response from its beta users; I tried clicking the Provide Feedback link on the new page to point out some of the problems I found, but got a 404 Not Found error.
So are any of you fans of technologies like Flash and Silverlight? I admit they're useful for video players like YouTube, for advertisements, and for games. But do they really have a place on a utilitarian page like the Download Center, or do they just get in the way?