Right, Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin ALPHA is installed, and things seem stable enough at this point in development.
Installation could have gone smoother. I downloaded the torrent for the Alpha 1, created a startup USB, went to install and selected the 'upgrade 11.10 to 12.04' option to try and preserve as many installed applications as possible. However Ubiquity could not finish the job and kept crashing at the end when it would normally display the 'restart' dialogue. This happened three times before I just went the fresh install route and a bug was filed on launchpad.
The Ubuntu Software Centre (USC) kept crashing or simply not responding when I tried to install applications, but that was quickly remedied by opening a Terminal and a quick apt-get install synaptic. Just in case the USC does not play nice then Gdebi is useful for installing .debs like Google Chrome and the Talk plugin. Though there seems to be a problem with the Talk plugin as 'ia32-libs' can not be installed, will look into that further and hopefully it will be a simple fix. Banshee and Tomboy are gone from the default install (BOO). But they are still easily found in the repo's and will be among my list of favourite applications currently being installed.
Rhythmbox looks very naked, no Ubuntu One integration yet and the podcast management tools are still non-existent. It does not seem that Rhythmbox can see/read the Banshee metadata either yet. It is quicker than Banshee, but that is a bit like comparing Ubuntu with Lubuntu. In that sense I still think Banshee is a better fit for the Ubuntu desktop. I am not adverse to change (I really enjoy Unity and Gnome Shell) so if they can make sure I can import my music from Banshee without losing all the track info and playlists, together with comparable podcast handling tools then I would make the switch.
Opening the overview seems faster, but the USC still takes what feels like an age to get going. The default suite of applications seem fine to get anybody going, but right now there really is not anything that really sets this apart with 11.10, bar the removal of Banshee and Tomboy. I would have thought an alternative to Tomboy was at least included, but alas, no. Pre-LTS development tends to be very conservative affairs with the focus being on polish. I am hoping for a Hardy Heron-esque default wallpaper for Pangolin, as I do not have any love for the Ocelot in the current batch, there is the potential for some impressive/fun wallpapers for the end-user this time around.
Still hoping they do 'something' with Gwibber, I would like to see real-time updates or at least something less then 5 min intervals. I have Polly installed on my Desktop and Netbook, but will run Gwibber only on the laptop running the 12.04 development. In fact, other than the Google Chome/Talk PPAs I do not add extra repos until after release. One feature I hope gets brought over from Gnome Shell is the ability to click links in pop-up notifications. Right now with Gwibber I tend to open Tweetdeck in a Chrome browser tab to chase a link...and with the 5 min Gwibber delay this can mean a search.
So far so good. Only very early days! The Alpha 2 is not due until Feb 2nd, then the first Beta around March 1st, and finally April 26th is release day. You can find the full release schedule here. That said, its going to come and go before we know it, but I hope to do what I can filing bug reports and whatever else that crops up. Other then chasing bugs and hopefully the return of Banshee and Tomboy I really do not expect any major changes over the next few weeks.
Post 12.04, I expect Mark to drop a few bombs on us. Talk has already begun on an Gnome Shell Remix for Ubuntu, while the development of Unity and Ubuntu getting deployed everywhere will make the next few development cycles a fun ride!