At home (Vista) the only desktop icons are from software I installed (mainly games). At work (XP) I use the desktop as a temporary dumping ground and for links to files on the network (I don't have a network at home).
I never use the desktop, I usually forget what my background looks like. In fact soemtimes I never change it. Gadges/Plasmoids/etc do not have the use for me they might have for other people.
With the search ability in the start menu i rarely even go to the All Programs folder. I just start typing and find the application/document/email that I'm looking for
Or I'll put a shortcut on the quick launch bar. no idea what I would do w/ any gadget/plasmoid/whatever on the desktop